By: Andrew Mitchell
There’s an undeniable thrill in house hunting – after all, for most of us, a home is the most expensive and important thing we’ll ever buy. Chances are, your search will turn up a lot of properties that don’t fit into your plans at all, so the excitement of finding a potentially suitable place in your sights can certainly be overwhelming. It’s got enough rooms, the neighbourhood seems nice, and it’s in your price range. Where do you sign – right?
Well, perhaps it is the Shangri-La it seems to be – but there’s no harm in pinching yourself a few times to make sure your dream home isn’t just a mirage. By asking a few tough questions now, you can ensure the right answers down the road.
1. Talk to the neighbours.
No matter how great your actual property is, you might have trouble enjoying it if the human environment is lacking. Finding good neighbours might be even more important than finding a place with the perfect kitchen. After all, you can renovate your own house, but your neighbours can’t be altered so easily. This is especially important if you’re going to be raising kids at your new address. Discovering that there are a lot of young families on the block could really increase the home’s appeal, in the long run – built in friends are a priceless feature. On the other hand, learning that you’ll be sandwiched between a pair of cranky child-haters might cause you to reconsider the whole thing. It’s also important to find out whether the neighbours own their own places. If many local properties are being rented out, you can expect a lot of turnover during the years ahead, so be prepared.
2. Get a detailed report on the utility costs.
Finding out how much it costs to heat and cool a house should always be at the top of a Montreal-area resident’s list of questions. Don’t settle for vague guesses – ask the seller for the Hydro, Gas or Oil bills. You’ll need to add those figures to your budget before you determine whether the house really does fit into your price range.
3. See if there’s a neighbourhood association.
It’s important to get to know your immediate neighbours individually, of course – but the overall character of the area will also depend upon more community-wide factors. The presence of a neighbourhood association will tell you a lot about what you can expect when it comes to crime prevention, overall safety and just plain value-added fun like summer barbecues, block parties, special deals with merchants and newsletters.
4. Research news stories about the area
History teaches many lessons – and a little research can help you to avoid learning those lessons the hard way. If the area has ever been linked to stories about tainted water supplies or other health hazards, you’ll want to know about it. Moreover, if there are any major plans on the horizon for reshaping the neighbourhood – i.e. zoning changes, new businesses being courted, a shift toward student tenancy, etc – your property might become more (or less) desirable very quickly, depending upon your tastes and needs. All of this information should be fairly easy to obtain these days, with a little patient search engine work and the right questions in mind.
5. Mention your remodeling plans to the sellers – they might have some valuable insight to offer.
When you are eager to buy a place, there can be a strong temptation to write off any perceived problems as “easily fixable”. Of course, it makes sense not to let a few nagging details get between you and your dream home – but you don’t want to go to the other extreme either. Perhaps the French doors you’d like to add to the master bedroom will necessitate the removal of a load-bearing wall, thereby creating a much more extensive (and expensive) renovation project. Perhaps some “minor” aesthetic change in the kitchen or bathroom would actually require major adjustments to the plumbing. The sellers may have considered those renovations before – and ruled them out as too extravagant.
You can get even more context by asking for a complete list of all improvements undertaken by the sellers (and perhaps even by their predecessors, if the records still exist). This crucial information will help you to see where problems are most likely to crop up in the future – and to gauge how realistic (i.e. economically feasible) your own renovation ideas are.
Finally, every second-guesser’s checklist should include a home inspection. Aside from turning up structural defects, termite infestations and other weaknesses that you’ll want to factor into the buying price, an inspection can uncover dangerous health hazards like asbestos insulation, lead paint and radon leaks. And no matter where you are in the home buying process, your search can benefit greatly from the services and resources of a real estate broker. To find out more about how I can help you to zero in on and purchase the home you’ve been looking for, I invite you to contact me to set up a no-obligation consultation. I can be reached directly at 514-425-6262.
Andrew Mitchell is a Chartered Real Estate Broker with Vistacor Realty Group, an independent real estate agency serving home sellers and buyers for over 23 years. Thinking about buying or selling real estate? Follow him on Twitter @Montreal_Homes, call him directly at 514-425-6262 or visit his website at www.andrewmitchell.ca.