While shopping for a new home, you might fall in love with a three-bedroom Colonial with a huge oak tree in the front yard, but if you discover that home is in a neighborhood with a high crime rate, that beautiful house might lose some of its luster. But wouldn’t you rather know the safety risks of a house before you decide to make it your home? You need to know the full picture before making the full commitment to buying that house.
Of course a home inspector is going to assess the structural safety of the house, and things like signs of pest damage or faulty wiring. That helps with understanding the safety of the inside of the house. That won’t help you to know how safe the house is from the outside in, however. To help you consider some things that maybe your realtor or your home inspector hasn’t covered, we offer four other safety factors to keep in mind while house hunting.
Sadly many neighborhoods look lovely on the surface but suffer from a higher-than-normal crime rate. Be sure to use an online resource or talk to area authorities about crime in that neighborhood so you know the facts. Also dig a little deeper to discover the neighborhood’s nuances. Every neighborhood seems to have its own personality, and you’ll want to know what you’re getting into, right? Don’t you want to know ahead of time if the house on the corner goes crazy with parties and loud music every Friday night? Or that many people drive far too fast down that residential road? Talk to the people who live there now and get their take on the neighborhood. Visit it at different times of day too. Take a walk as if you did live there already and get a feel for the place.
Speaking of people driving too fast, do take into account the street safety, especially if you have kids or pets. I’ve lived in a quiet neighborhood near the end of a dead-end road and watched folks fly by at 45 miles per hour on a regular basis. You’ll want to consider placement of the home relative to the street too. If it’s too close and there’s a lot of traffic, you’ll have the noise, but it will also be more dangerous for little ones or even dangerous for you to back out of the driveway. Also consider the sides of the roads: Are there sidewalks? If not, only shoulders, is the shoulder of the road wide enough to be safe to walk on? Will you be able to push that stroller or walk that dog without being paranoid about traffic?
If the street is a potential safety issue, is the yard fenced? If not, and you’ll need a fence, factor in that expense when considering the cost of the house. Fencing can get expensive! Also keep in mind what kind of fence you’ll need. Maybe there’s a cute little picket fence already, but that’s not going to contain your German Shepherd who can leap it in a single bound. And one last word on fencing: Remember that sometimes fencing is as important for keeping people or animals out as in!
The forces of nature
If you’re not already familiar with the area, you’ll want to find out about safety issues beyond your control, like flooding or even power outages. My old neighborhood had two grids: One that hardly ever lost power and mine (which lost power on a regular basis). Flooding is also something to consider, as even homes on hills can be subject to unwelcome water. Or maybe, as with our current home, it turns out you’ve got a wind tunnel when the weather is just right, or that the sun never hits the driveway in the winter, making for an always-icy sidewalk!
Bushes and hiding places
Not to sound like the doom and gloom blogger here, but you’ll also want to consider the state of the yard as well as the neighbors’ yards. Burglars like to work unseen, obviously, and they like coverage from bushes and fences. Is the yard of this house going to be appealing to a burglar and can you do something about that? How about the houses on either side? Consider the visibility of your home security signage too. You want it front and center so it can act as a deterrent to would-be burglars. Is that possible?
Shopping for a new home is exciting and leads to lots of day dreaming about the future, as you picture the kids in the yard and the kitchen remodeled to let in more daylight. But your home is your oasis and you want to feel safe there, and no amount of wall paint can make up for safety factors outside of your control. Go into your house hunting with your eyes wide open paying attention to these other safety factors, and you’ll be more likely to make an investment that’s safe and secure for years to come.