Good, Bad and Ugly questions are not always easy to ask! We see the stars in your eyes, first time home buyer! We know you think you have found the perfect house. It might not be your dream house forever, but it is the perfect place for right now. You know, there might be a few fixer-upper issues but you are ready to embrace them. You’re dreaming of your new kitchen cabinets and of the basement you will transform into a family room.
Here at Palm State, we often counsel first time home buyers to be brave about asking questions concerning the house they have fallen in love with. There might be little questions that haunt you, but perhaps your agent has brushed them off as unimportant.
A North Carolina Case: Someone Is Living in the Attic, By the Way!
For example, Zillow reported a buyer faced with an unusual clause that came with the mortgage on his dream home. Buyer assumes responsibility for the month-to-month tenancy in the upstairs apartment. Occupant has never paid, and no security deposit is being held, but there is a lease in place. The sellers and agents added, “Yes, it does not make sense, please don’t bother asking.” Palm state would say, in such a case ask the ugly questions–Who is this person and why does he live in the attic, and do I have to feed him!
The situation is alarming, but even more upsetting is the suggestion that questions should not be asked. We say: So if your sellers or real estate agent says, “Don’t Ask about this or that, be afraid, be very afraid. See the red flags and ask the embarrassing questions. If you don’t ask, you could be placed in a miserable living situation.
Our Rule: Always Ask All The Questions!
WE know you love that house, but this is one of the most important purchases of your personal and fiscal life. No matter how much you like and trust your agent or the seller, you cannot afford to buy a home and commit to a mortgage without asking the hard questions. You might start with these ideas for difficult discussions.
If you want to know about your neighborhood, we advise you to check it out by talking to the people walking around the neighborhood. Introduce yourself and visit with them. You might find out the neighbors play WAGNER at 1:00 nightly or raise gamecocks in the basement. You might discover your next door neighbor races high speed engines in his workshop at all hours or that the elderly lady on the corner has 18 cats but she knows all their names. Chances are, you’ll find a normal neighborhood, but you won’t know unless you walk the neighborhood and ask the good questions.
Now, can an HOA-Home Owners Association Control more than your lawn cutting? Asking questions is the only way to find out! Some can be meticulous and squelch your freedom to enjoy owning your house. They might forbid a privacy fence or outlaw that cheerful color you want to paint your house trim. Read the fine print in the HOA covenant, then ask questions before you buy the house
Murder, Mold or Meth
It might seem like a rude or bad question, but ask about any recent deaths in the home. Will unsavory events of the past creep you out every time you go in the basement? Or will the house build a new history with you?
“The answer to this doesn’t have to be tragic or illegal to make a difference, either. You should also ask if the previous owner ever buried a deceased pet in the backyard. The last thing you need when you’re digging a new garden or removing a tree is to find the remains of someone’s beloved pet.”
Another bad question involves ways the house might make you sick. Ask questions about such sensitive issues as mold. Did you know some lovely houses might hide the fact they have been used as meth cooking facilities? Such places can make you very ill. Ask about police reports.
High Waters??? Check on Flooding!
Ask questions about water damage, storms and flooding. Even plumbing problems can leave their mark. Ask questions about the history of your home with storms. Knowing how your property deals with water doesn’t mean you have to give up on the purchase. It might just might mean you need to consider extra flood insurance.
Learn Your Lines!
Property line questions can turn good neighbors into Bad.
88 year old Winifred has lived alone on a small city lot for over 25 years. Her modest home had a privacy fence on one side. She was quite happy in her quiet neighborhood until….
New neighbors moved in. We will call them the smiths. And immediately the Smiths’ started questioning the property line location. It seems Winifred’s property was a few feet wider that their newly acquired property and they couldn’t understand why.
First the smiths’ had a new survey performed, trying to prove that the property line was marked in the wrong place. This attempt failed. What the new survey showed was that: Yes, Winifred’s property line was correctly laid out. And yes, her property was a few feet wider. While Winifred was proven right, the whole affair left her feeling angry and upset, as well as threatened.
Next, Winifred’s new neighbors made a friendly sounding offer. As Winifred’s fence was in need of some repair, they offered to tear the fence down and put up a new fence with no charge to her, and cut down her hedge. That sounded like a very friendly and generous offer.
Free Is Not Always Good!
But, Winifred remembered an age old saying. “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is” (too good to be true, that is.) She also remembered that property lines can be partially or wholly determined by the location of fences or other property accessories. Her tall, lushly manicured boxwood hedge had been in place for 50 years. She could remember whe she and her husband had planted the little cuttings that thrived. They measured into her property-line a complete 3 feet, planning their little strip of green bushes would grow. And they made sure they were in compliance with city laws.
She could lose inches or even feet of her property. Besides, she loved her thickly hatched hedge and the beautiful cardinals who nested in it every year. She said, “No,”thank you,” to the new fence. But the next morning she woke to the sounds of hammers, and when she went into her backyard, she could not believe her eyes. There, attached with nails, wires, and bungee cords to her 7 foot tall, 50 year old hedge was a hodge-podge of battered raw wood pallets, oddly shaped pieces of plywood, and old fruit boxes.
More than a fence, this makeshift wall held a floppy frame of hog-wire, to create a cage, and within it were and two gangly hound dogs. This was the beginning of an ugly relationship – A potentially good neighbor becomes a bad one. Winifred’s horror was well supported by city sanctions, but it took a while, and the negotiating help of her grown sons, the law, and other protesting neighbors to have the ugly fence-dog-pen assemblage removed.–By the way, the hedge was unharmed!
In the Old West, many a war or feud began just as this one did. The moral of this story is always be sure you know where your property line begins and ends.
Save yourself unnecessary grief. Be sure to “Ask the Good, the Bad and the Ugly Questions.”