Allen Norwood

For helpful info, ask the neighbors

If you’re considering whether to buy a particular house, remember this: Some questions are better directed at neighbors than at real estate pros if you want an unfiltered answer.

That thought came to mind after I heard from Julie Tuggle of Carolina Buyer’s Agent after last week’s column, in which I reflected on the questions I’ve fielded from prospective buyers looking at homes for sale on our street. Tuggle’s firm, which represents buyers, provides a list of questions to help buyers query neighbors. The list is helpful. It’s interesting for what’s on it – and what’s missing.

There are 19 questions. Five – more than a quarter of them – are about noise. No. 3 is, “Does peace and quiet prevail?” That’s followed by questions about barking dogs, loud music, unruly parties and the roar of jets overhead.

Indeed, Tuggle said, noise might come up more than any other topic.

One of the questions that is certain to come up is missing from the list. Nowhere among the 19 is a question about children on the street.

“We hear, ‘Are there a lot of kids in the neighborhood?’ ” Tuggle said. “But that gets into an area where we can’t go.”

I do. When folks ask, I say there are three kids in that house and two in that one. Nice kids. We’ve enjoyed them.

There is a question about schools.

Real estate agents can be leery of questions about schools. Many of those questions evolve into issues of race or national origin, or under-performing schools, which explains their reluctance. Tuggle said some listing agents even leave the school field blank on the MLS form. When that happens, prospective buyers have to track that down themselves.

Moving on, you should ask about recent major repairs to the house you’re considering, especially to the roof. As I said, you should ask if the house floods. That’s a good one because it might be the only house on the street that floods, and neighbors will know.

There’s a question on the list about difficulty with neighbors. I’m not sure about that one. You could be talking to the difficult neighbor.

I’ve written that it’s a good idea to cruise through the community you’re considering on a sunny Saturday morning. That will give you a good idea about who lives there and how they get along. Tuggle agrees.

If it’s like our street, you won’t have any trouble engaging friendly neighbors – but you might have trouble getting away.

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