You Gotta Walk the Walk

When I first started out in real estate, I remember tagging along with a seasoned agent on our Tuesday Tour.  During the course of our ride, I heard about one of her clients who had found the perfect house… absolutely perfect… but for the neighbors next door.  Turned out the neighboring house was home to their daughter’s ex-boyfriend (so they discovered after they fell in love with it). The daughter nixed the purchase. So continued the search.

As a buyer, you have to walk the walk.  Or, in layman’s terms, get out and about in your possible new neighborhood and get the lay of the land. The time to do this is before you write an offer, or at least before all of your contingencies expire.

It’s your golden opportunity to see how long it takes to walk to metro. Or find the nearest park.  Is it an uphill walk to the bus stop?  Will you need to hop in your car to get to your nearest Starbucks?  Or grab a gallon of milk?  Try to be there during the times that you will be coming and going from work. Do the neighbors talk to each other? Are the streets backed up with traffic? Is there a place where people gather to let their dogs play?  Is there a daycare center near by? Does your daughter’s ex live next door? Or, your ex?!

Most importantly, you should talk to the neighbors.  See if there is anything going on in the neighborhood that is contentious (i.e., new middle school or hospital expansion) or controversial. Ask if there are any nut jobs on your “new” block.  I had one client move into their new home only to find that there was a really troubled teen just 3-doors away.  Eventually the kid moved, but for a couple of years he lurked. Another client moved onto a block only to discover that it was the preferred short-cut for overflow traffic heading north on 355 at rush hour. You don’t get that sort of info on a single Sunday open house.

On the flip side, I once heard of a crafty buyer paying some bums to hang outside a Dupont Circle Sunday open house in order to scare off the competition.  Can you imagine!  Again, a single Sunday shouldn’t be the criteria upon which you base your house-buying decision. Invest a little of your time and hang out… as much as you can.

And remember, please, that what you deem important might not be such a big deal to me.  It’s not that I’m insensitive, but everything is subjective.  It pays to do your homework.  As your agent, I’m pretty good at finding houses.  But I’m not so good at sniffing out barking dogs or brash neighbors.  And, even if I were, that barking dog might melt your heart some day, and the brash neighbor could turn out to be your best buddy. Life’s a gamble.

When making the largest purchase of your life, a little due diligence can pay off.