The list of question every buyer asks about the various properties during a house hunt is relatively predictable. How many bedrooms does it have? Baths? Square footage? What are the HOA dues? What’s the school district?
When it comes to crime, most of us simply don’t ask any questions at all, as (a) agents might be prohibited from doing much beyond pointing us to law enforcement sources, and (b) we tend to assume most neighborhoods are either ‘good’ or ‘bad,’ low-crime or not. The truth is never so black and white. Fortunately, technology has made it easy-peasy for us to get a deeper, more nuanced, and more usable understanding of the crime that takes place in our neighborhood-to-be, which in turn allows us to make smarter decisions about which home we buy and how we live in it, once we buy it, than we could have even ten years ago.
The key to tapping into this nuanced crime information is asking the right questions. Here’s a short list of the right questions to ask about crime before you buy a home.
1. Do any offenders live nearby
Google “your city, your state Megan’s Law registry to find sites where you can type in an address (like the address of the home you’re considering buying) and find a list of registered sex offenders in the area. Many of these sites will also offer you a map showing your address and the relative locations of the homes of the registered offenders.
2. Was the home a drug lab?
You think your home’s former owner’s food or pet smells are toxic? That’s nothing compared to the truly unpleasant and health-impairing effects some have experienced after buying a home that turned out to have been a methamphetamine lab in a former life. If the sellers know this about a home, they should certainly disclose it. Unfortunately, many of these homes end up sold by banks as foreclosures, or by estates, trusts, landlords or other corporate owners who don’t know the home’s past - or don’t have a legal obligation to disclose it.
Get the answer to this question to the best of your ability via this two-step process: (a) talk with the neighbors - they often will reveal whether the house had a shady past, then (b) search the federal Drug Enforcement Association’s Clandestine Laboratory Registry, here: http://www.justice.gov/dea/clan-lab/clan-lab.shtml.
3. What sorts of crimes happen in the area. Where and when do they happen?
Crime happens virtually everywhere. But the details of crime patterns vary widely in various neighborhoods. One side of town might be plagued with an overall low crime rate, but the crime that does happen tends to be violent crime after dark. While another neighborhood across town might have lots of car break-ins during the day while people are at work, but not much going on after residents get back home - and not much violent crime at all.
SpotCrime.com offers an angle on nuanced crime data, breaking down crime types with easy-to-scan icons and providing data for communities all over the country.
4. What anti-crime features does - or can - the home have?
Review your disclosures and talk with the sellers (through your agent, of course) about what anti-crime features the home currently has. This will allow you to prepare for any upgrades, downgrades or changes you’ll want to make. Perhaps the sellers currently have the home wired for an alarm that can be armed, disarmed and video monitored remotely - if you want to continue that service, you’ll need to get that information and make the account change when you take over the other utilties and home services.
5. What does the neighborhood do to fight crime - and how can I help?
Neighborhoods across the country fight and prevent crime the grassroots way, by maintaining strong connections between the home owners and neighbors who all have in common the desire to live and raise their families in a safe, secure, thriving place. Don’t hesitate to ask your home’s seller and/or any neighbors you talk to about whether there are any neighborhood associations, neighborhood watch groups, email lists, social networks, regular meetings, block parties or other community connections in which you can actively participate.
Treci Oglesby is alocal real estateexpert, specializing in assisting buyers and sellers in the Frisco, Prosper, and surrounding area. Please contact Treci directly with any questions you may have!
Author:Leslie Fogle Phone: 214-364-5888 Dated: February 21st 2013 Views: 2,240 About Leslie: I was born and raised in the Central Valley of California. I attended California State University, S...