Real Estate Buyers: Research the History of Your New Home

Filed under: Real Estate Law

When you’re shopping for a new home, you might be concentrating on square footage, condition of the house, or the amenities in your new neighborhood. However, there are other very important considerations that can affect your satisfaction with your new home in the long run. These factors also impact your ability to resell the home later, so it’s worth your time to do a little research and learn all you can about the property.

California state law requires sellers to disclose all they know that affects the value and desirability of the home they are selling, and both agents (assuming buyer and seller are represented) have an obligation to conduct a diligent visual inspection of the accessible areas of the home (remember, they are not professional inspectors). Pay close attention to the multiple disclosure forms you will typically receive. They are the best way to learn about your new home during the contingency period. Read carefully the form advisories you will receive about both general and specific potential issues in your neighborhood. You will also receive other reports with additional information about the property, the neighborhood and the area, such as a preliminary title report, natural hazard reports and area advisories. Aside from these sources of information, there are other means of research.

One of the easiest ways to find out information about any property is to talk to the neighbors. They can be a great source of information about past owners, activity in the home, crime in the area, or any other criteria that might concern you. This can also give you an idea of the general atmosphere of the neighborhood, and whether it matches your needs. It’s fairly easy to check the home’s records at city hall or the courthouse. All you need is the address and you can discover information such as past owners and permitting issues.

Depending on how much information you want or need, news archives are great sources of information, particularly if you’re concerned about crime in the neighborhood. Crime can happen anywhere, but you definitely want to know if there is a pattern of burglaries or violent crime in the neighborhood. By law the seller is only required to inform you of any deaths in the home during the preceding three years. If you’re a bit superstitious, doing your own research may put your mind at ease.

Sex offenders are required to register their current address and this information is made available to the public. Check the state’s online sex offender registry to discover whether there are any registered sex offenders living near the home, but do not be surprised at the number of registered sex offenders – there are, unfortunately, plenty of them and few areas are without a sprinkling of registered sex offenders.

Remember to do your as much research as possible before making an offer on the home. Once you’ve presented an offer in writing and it is accepted by the seller, you will be spending money on inspections and other services and, once your contingencies are removed, your deposit is at risk.

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