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Five Questions to Ask the Neighbors Before Purchasing a Home

You’ve found a home and are ready to make an offer. You’ve even checked out the local crime rates and schools. But you still should get an accurate feel for the neighborhood by talking to the people who will be living next door to you and your family day in and day out. After all, who knows the area better than the people who already are residents? Here, suggests five insightful questions to ask that can help you gather some useful information.

1. How would you describe the area, and what it’s like living here?

This open-ended question allows neighbors to say whatever comes to mind first—which often is what they love (and hate) the most about their neighborhood. Neighbors can potentially offer realistic information about safety, demographics and anything else you’d like to know. But be wary of disclosing which house you’re considering, because there’s always the chance that personal relations with the seller could taint the neighbor’s response. People’s perspectives also can differ. Focus on getting a good feel for the vibe of the neighborhood, and make sure to ask several neighbors the same questions to get a more accurate picture. 

2. If you could change anything at all about the neighborhood, what would it be?

This is a great follow-up question, allowing the person you’re talking with to discuss any drawbacks to the area. This might include limited parking, barking dogs or other inconveniences that could become big annoyances if you purchase a home in the area.

3. Do particular schools have a reputation for being strong or weak in a certain area?

Even if you don’t have children, schools still should be a major concern. That’s because a good school district usually translates into higher property values because potential buyers with families will want to be in the right district. Online resources can help you learn about school system ratings, but nothing beats hearing about the personal experience of families who have kids enrolled in the local schools. You also should ask the neighbors about the specific school programs that your children need.

4. How do people like to socialize in the neighborhood?

This is the ideal question to ask if you want to determine whether you’re a good fit for the neighborhood. Neighbors might tell you that there’s not a social scene, or that there are block parties and an open-door policy. You also can find out if socializing happens through the community center, religious organizations, school, dinner parties, sports or book clubs.

5. Is there anything that I should be aware of with this property?

Once you’ve asked about the neighborhood vibe, it’s time to turn your attention to the specific home you’re considering. Although sellers are legally required to disclose certain information, neighbors might be willing to dish more on the property—revealing things that weren’t evident in the disclosure. They could know whether the property you’re thinking of buying has run into some problems and give you the back story of why the home is on the market, all of which is good intel for negotiations.