Buying a house is one of the largest purchases, if not the largest purchase you will make in your life. Before signing your name on the mortgage documents, it is wise to spend some time doing your homework. In addition to having the property and house inspected for structural and pest problems, it is also a good idea to look at other factors that could affect your enjoyment, safety and use of the property and home.
Review Local Crime Statistics
Whether you have children or you like to spend time walking outdoors in the neighborhood, it is a wise move to review local crime statistics. Take a look at both bodily injury crimes and property crimes. Chances are good that as a homeowner, you might occasionally forget to lock your windows, or you might leave the garage door open while puttering in the backyard. If there are a lot of grab-and-go property crimes, this could cause you to feel frustrated and unsafe. You can also find out which registered sex offenders are in the neighborhood by checking with the county sheriff's office.
Read the Local News
Read local news websites in order to find out what is going on in the neighborhood. You would want to know if a large shopping center is soon to be built two blocks from the house you are thinking of buying. It would also be good to know if a feature of the neighborhood is about to be reconfigured or removed. For example, if you want to live close to an elementary school, but it is about to be torn down and turned into a warehouse, this could affect your satisfaction with the area.
Join Online Neighborhood Watch Groups
Not all crimes will get reported in the crime statistics for a neighborhood. For example, vandalism and petty theft are unlikely to generate police reports. Loud parties, celebratory gunshots or a major rat problem is also unlikely to get reported on the news or in police crime statistics. In order to learn about these potential problems, join online neighborhood watch groups. There are groups through social media platforms as well as apps that you can add to your smartphone. Review recent posts in order to get a feel for what life is like in the neighborhood on a daily basis.
Go to a Civic Association Meeting
Meet your prospective neighbors by attending a meeting of the block watch or civic association. If the area has a homeowner's association, find out if you can attend one of those meetings. When you go to one of these events, you can find out what is going on now and what is in the works for the area. It is also a good way to meet the people who live in the area and get their personal experiences about what they like and whether or not they would buy their home again, given 20/20 hindsight.