There is so much talk about real estate disrupters and how technology can streamline and improve the industry. Without a doubt, in many areas this is true. How great would it be if it were so easy to purchase a home online by simply cross-referencing all of the available data, such as listing photos, floor plans, descriptions, online comps and maps?
The reality is that a home is not a widget or a roll of paper towel that can merely be ordered on Amazon by pressing a button. There is an emotional connection along with a practical reality that requires human interference. Most importantly, the practical realities are critical considerations that can make or break the enjoyment of your living experience and negatively impact your opinion of the home.
[Read: The Guide to Buying a Home.]
With boots on the ground as opposed to searching in cyberspace, here are some key factors to look out for:
- Noise from traffic or neighbors.
- Smells from neighbors or the home itself.
- Sight and light.
- Possible flooding.
- Neighborhood pets.
Traffic. Google maps may make the street you're considering seem like it is on a lovely, winding road, but perhaps it is really a common cut-through street with more traffic than you realized. It may not be on a main cross street, but it is still important to get a sense of the traffic patterns of the neighborhood.
Neighbors. Do the neighbors play loud music in their backyard? Or in an apartment or condo, do you hear noise from the street below or stomping from the people above you?
Often, new windows are able to buffer street noise, but sometimes the issue doesn't have an easy fix. Does a neighbor have a barking dog, which might be a problem? After a few visits, you'll get a sense of whether or not there are any issues that you may or may not wish to contend with.
Kitchen smells. Can you smell what your neighbor is cooking? Once in a while might be alright, but you may not want to smell their cooking on a regular basis. If the smell of different types of food bothers you, try touring the place when neighbors would likely be cooking dinner to see if odors permeate from their kitchen into your potential home.
Musty, moldy smells. This could be a sign of a major problem from past leaks and a serious health concern. Consider these smells a red flag – no one wants an old house to smell like an old house.
3. Sight and Light
Photos. Listing photos are taken by professional photographers whose goal is to sell the property. It's always a good idea to visit the home on both a sunny and cloudy day to get a sense of the light. Most importantly, if you love it on a cloudy day, chances are it will be a home run on a sunny day.
Outside the home. How do you feel about the homes around you? Do the neighbors mow their lawns or care for their exterior as much as you would like? Alternatively, in an apartment building, how do you feel about the hallway or lobby decor? Does this matter to you and if so, will it impact the enjoyment of your home?
4. Flood Area
Local Intel can shed light on what typically happens in the neighborhood, and details on annual flooding can be critical. Even before the catastrophe of Hurricane Harvey in Houston, many neighborhoods, such as Bellaire, had always been known to flood. Research whether the neighborhood has experienced flooding in the past, and how often. If it's a common occurrence, you'll want to factor in the additional cost of flood insurance and the potential loss of valuables if you live there.
You might love pets, but may not love living near an owner with many animals, certain types or breeds. Take a walk around the neighborhood to see if there are a lot of people walking dogs, if there's a dog park nearby or if outdoor cats are a common sight. While many consider pet-friendly neighborhoods a plus, you may prefer a neighborhood where pets are a little less present.
In the end, there are many factors to consider when buying a home: Is it within your budget, does it have enough bedrooms, is it the desired location and do you feel an emotional connection with it? The majority of these qualifications can be determined by an online search. But this is not enough – it's merely the first round. Buying a home is still a process where one needs to do more detective work, which can only be done the old-fashioned way: Spending time at the property and evaluating some of the critical issues which impact your senses and could affect your living experience.
Determine your deal-breakers.
It’s time to begin house hunting, and you’re all about that “location, location, location” mantra everyone mentions when it comes to real estate. But the right number of bedrooms, square footage and proximity to work and school aside, how much weight should you give to external factors that can potentially have a big impact on a property’s value? Here are 13 things you might want to think twice about living near – some could be a big boost to property value down the line, while others could be a deal-breaker for you and future buyers.A school
(Hero Images/ Getty Images)
Living next door to or down the street from a school can be a selling point for families with school-age children, but a headache for those without kids. “Kids can walk to school, and it’s very convenient … but people without kids might not be too thrilled with that,” says David Michalski, principal broker and president of Fairfax Realty in Falls Church, Virginia. He notes a high school in particular can create noise pollution with football games and other events that stretch into the late evening.Train tracks
A short walk or drive to a commuter train may be convenient, but few homeowners want their property to back up to train tracks. Noise at all hours of the day and night will not only be a nuisance that drags down your property value, but a freight train that carries hazardous materials may also be a concern to consider. “Trains can crash and tip over, and you have all kinds of issues there,” Michalski says.A mall
A shopping mall or retail development may be nice to have a short drive away, but most buyers are going to steer clear, says James Krueger, broker/owner of Krueger Real Estate in Houston. “People like to live in a neighborhood, and when you’re right next to something commercial like that, you lose your neighborhood feel,” he says. For those who don’t mind living close to commercial property, you can likely get a good deal on a house.A lake, river or beach
A lake, river or beach
On the opposite end of the spectrum, waterfront property tends to go for a premium. “People like to have a water view,” says Holly Finn, marketing coordinator for the Finn Team at Coldwell Banker West Shell in Cincinnati. Depending on where you live, you may need to consider the possibility of flooding and factor in the cost of additional homeowners insurance, but that doesn’t necessarily detract buyers. “I’ve seen people pay huge premiums for flood insurance just because of the location,” Krueger says.A cemetery
A cemetery – either connected to a church or nondenominational – can put off homebuyers regardless of whether they believe in ghosts. “That’s going to have a psychological impact, I think, on most people," Michalski says. But some homebuyers see the positives. While sharing property lines with a cemetery might have a minor negative impact on a property’s resale value, a cemetery in current use is far less likely to be developed into homes or commercial buildings in the near future, which means a quieter neighborhood. "Those who don’t let it negatively impact their thinking … love the fact that they’re backing up to a church,” Michalski says.A detention center or jail
A detention center or jail
The only plus for living near a detention center or jail would be if you worked there, Krueger says. The thought of potential jailbreaks and the sight of the imposing (and typically unattractive) structure of a detention center is a deterrent for most homebuyers. Krueger says he knows of a nice, gated housing community located down the road from a detention center in the Houston suburbs: “There’s a lot of buyers that see the detention center on the drive there and say, ‘We’re not going to go here.’”An apartment complex
An apartment complex
Buying a single-family home next door to an apartment community may not seem like too much of a negative for day-to-day living. But Michalski notes it can be like buying the nicest house on the block, where the surrounding properties have the potential to drag down your home’s value. When purchasing a house near a multifamily building, “you’re buying a much more expensive property compared to what’s next door to you,” Michalski says.A park
As with any external feature, a park may not be for everyone, but most homebuyers are going to see the appeal of backing up to, facing or living down the street from one. “Generally speaking, overall you’ve got to say that’s a positive,” Michalski says. Krueger adds that while an urban versus suburban location may have a bigger or smaller impact, the general consensus is that “there’s going to be a price markup for that kind of property.” So be ready to pay more for a home near a park, and hopefully make more when you decide to sell down the line.A casino or sports stadium
A casino or sports stadium
Bright lights all night and the potential for increased traffic may not sound like a plus, but a new casino could mean other business development that serves as a big boost to home values. Michalski was involved in a few sales near the MGM National Harbor casino in Oxon Hill, Maryland, and says the announcement of the facility served as a boost for the surrounding residential real estate, as a new outlet mall and hotels with conference facilities developed as well. “Because of the massive development that went on around there, a lot of property value went up within a several-mile radius,” Michalski says.A power plant
A power plant
Whether you’re concerned about overexposure to electromagnetic energy or simply don’t want to deal with a commercial compound near your home, a power plant tends to be considered a downside for a house on the market. Finn says a power plant is “definitely a negative in terms of home values if they’re near anything electrical – a power line field as well.”A water treatment facility
A water treatment facility
People largely don’t like sharing property lines with commercial developments, but Krueger says a water treatment facility could be a plus for some buyers – especially if they like the idea of seclusion. “The fact that you don’t have a backyard neighbor can be an attraction for some people,” he says. Some water treatment facilities are specifically designed to fit in with the neighborhood and have attractive facades, to avoid dragging down home values or being an eyesore.A highway
If you’re OK with the extra noise a highway will bring, get excited to land a great deal on a house that backs up to a major thoroughfare. But when it comes time to sell, be ready to price it for less than otherwise comparable homes. Backing up to a highway will always be deemed a negative – and while a wall serving as a sound barrier may help, it’s still considered undesirable. “On the other side of the street, even, is higher in value than the one that backs up to the highway,” Finn says.Airplane flight paths
Airplane flight paths
“Most buyers are going to be leery of something that makes a lot of noise,” Krueger says. But because frequent flight paths aren’t visually obvious like a highway or railroad, you might want to do your research when it comes to the neighborhoods planes fly over most, as the seller may not be obligated to tell you. “In Texas, that’s not a requirement of disclosure, so that’s going to be the buyer’s due diligence for sure,” Krueger says. You may be able to look up a map showing general flight paths surrounding the nearest airport, but to find out if noise is noticeable on a specific street or in a home, you'd likely have to spend some time there and observe.Read More
After earning a degree in Economics from the University of Pennsylvania, Arriz worked in wholesale sales for several top fashion designers in New York City. While her business sense, tireless work ethic and integrity fuel her success, most importantly, she believes wholeheartedly that one’s living space should be not only an investment but also a home and sanctuary.
Arriz has resided on the Upper East Side for over 30 years and currently lives in Carnegie Hill with her husband, three children and her miniature schnauzer, Lucy.