Looking for a new home — especially your first home — can be daunting. As real estate attorneys for years in the York County region, we’ve seen some of the easiest home sales and some of the most challenging. From our experience, we’re offering five helpful tips when looking to buy a house.
1. Deed restrictions
Perhaps one of the most important tips when looking to buy a house, is to check on deed restrictions. Oftentimes, buyers associate deed restrictions with developments, but they should beware: More and more sellers are placing restrictions on properties outside of the suburbs. These restrictions may include:
- The type of residence
- A seller may stipulate no mobile home, a first-story home only or a certain square footage per floor
- Livestock on the property
- This could prohibit chickens, horses, alpacas, sheep or goats
- Storage on the property
- Some sellers have prohibited outdoor storage of RVs, boats or trailers
- Well and septic system
If you’re buying a home outside of public water and sewer, you’ll want to get a firm grasp on the maintenance, repairs and risks that might be associated with the well and septic system in place.
There are multiple types of septic systems but the most common for this region is a septic tank with a drain field, which will need to be pumped every two to five years. It’s important to understand when it was last pumped and if there have been any other issues, which should all be noted on a seller disclosure form. A sand mound, which is also a common system, can need completely replaced after a certain period of time.
- Natural landscape
While it’s well within your bounds to change the landscape of a property after you purchase it, moving a creek is a little difficult.
If there is a creek near the home (whether it’s on your property or a neighboring property), you’ll want to ask questions about the last time the creek flooded, if it impacted the home and if you’re within a flood zone and therefore need a flood insurance policy.
Similarly, pay attention to trees and shrubbery that are on neighboring properties that may impact your own. For example, a towering tree on your neighbor’s property that could potentially fall on your home, is often out of your control to trim or cut down.
- Homeowners’ association
If you’re buying within a development, there may be a homeowners’ association, or HOA. Before buying the home, it’s important to determine the fees associated with the HOA and how much they’ve increased over time.
Some homeowners appreciate HOAs because they enforce property maintenance and sometimes come with shared amenities, such as playgrounds, swimming pools, gyms and clubhouses.
Even if you’ve been in an HOA before and enjoyed it, it’s important to remember that every HOA is different. It could be worth talking with prospective neighbors about what they like and don’t like about the HOA, and check court records to see if there are any current or past lawsuits against the HOA.
- Easements and stormwater drainage facilities
Similar to homeowners’ associations, easements and stormwater drainage facilities tend to be an issue more often associated with developments.
Be cautious if a stormwater drainage pond is located on or near your property. If it is located on your property, you may even be responsible for its maintenance and expense. Even if you’re not or it’s located near your property, you will want to make sure that the person(s) responsible for its maintenance is handling it in a responsible manner.
If you’re ready to buy a home and need legal help, contact Stock and Leader’s Real Estate team today.