1. How much are the HOA fees?
Homeowner Association fees can vary dramatically in planned communities. Older communities that have not been well maintained may find it necessary raise their fees to cover the cost of replacing aging infrastructure. Damage in the community, either natural or man-made, can cause increases in the HOA fees to cover repairs.
- Is the property in a flood plain?
Flooding is a big cause of damage to property. Being in a one-hundred year flood plain doesn’t mean that you are safe from flooding for 100 years. The flood plain is a statistical probability. A one-hundred year flood plain means that in any given year the likelihood of the property flooding is one in a hundred.
- What are the CC&R’s?
Covenant, codes, and restrictions outline what residents can and cannot do with and to their property. If you plan to build, alter, or change your property, pay close attention to the CC&R’s. They also limit annoying behavior and ensure a neighborhood will continue to provide a comfortable residential environment.
- Why are you buying this real estate?
If it will it be your primary residence long-term, you will want to make certain the property and surrounding area will meet your expectations. You will want to know the answers to many of these questions. If you are buying the property as an investment and don’t plan to live there, the answers to your questons may not be as important as the questions your tenants will ask.
- Where is the nearest grocery store/clothing store/dentist/doctor/hospital?
You will want to know if you have to traverse crowded intersections or slog through rush hour traffic to buy a gallon of milk. Drive the route to find out how easy it is to follow. Find out if roads aloing the way stay congested much of the day, and when the least congested times are.
- How long does it take to get to the nearest…”
Similar, but not the same as #5. Road and traffic conditions dictate how long it takes to travel to your destination. It’s good to ask both questions so you know how far away the amenities are as well as how how much time you need to allow to get there.
- Where do the people in the neighborhood go for entertainment and recreation?
It is convenient having entertainment and recreation options close to where you live. You save money on transportation and time in commuting. Also consider the cost of the activities. If your neighbors are upwardly mobile and you are on a fixed income, you may choose not to participate in their costly entertainment.
- Is there a neighborhood committee?
You may want to have input as to how the community changes over time. A neighborhood committee allows you the opportunity to do so. One of the huge advantages of a master planned community is knowing what the neighborhood will be like in ten or twenty years. The bylaws of a planned community are insurance that that nice neighborhood you move into today will maintain its integrity.
- Are the neighbors friendly?
Talk to the neighbors and ask if they like living in the community. Look around and see if the people who live in the area are happy. If you try to strike up a conversation and the neighbors won’t talk to you, that says something about the area.
- Do the CC&R’s restrict obnoxious activities?
However you define obnoxious, is the activity allowed or restricted? Most retirees don’t want an auto repair, welding or paint shop next door. Check the CC&R’s and find out what is allowed. On the othere hand, if you want to have a welding shop, make certain it’s allowed.
- What activites are available within walking distance?
Find out how many and what kind of activities are available that you won’t have to drive to attend. It will save you time, frustration and money if you don’t need to deal with driving, parking and traffic to paricipate in community activities. Walking will also allow you to increase you fitness and mingle with neighbors.
- Are there any organized activities?
Some communities have a get together once a year. Others, like SunRiver have regular scheduled organized activities. Check out the SunRiver Today community calendar to find out what is planned and how often there is some activity to attend. Organized activities within the community are a great venue to meet and get to know your neighbors.
- Do the members of the community get together socially?
Find out if your neighbors attend the planned events. Some activities are well attended, others are put on by a board or committee but the residents don’t enjoy them enough to show up. Plan your visit to the community to coincide with a scheduled activity and see how many people attend.
- What kind of feeling do you get from the people you meet on the street?
You can tell a lot about the neighborhood or community from the attitude of people you meet on the street. Decide if the people you meet as you tour the community are the kind of people you want as neighbors. Look for a place that has a positive atmosphere, you will be spending many years in your retirement home.
- Is the neighborhood pet-friendly?
If you have a pet, look for signs that your pet will be as welcome as you are. You probably want to find a community where pets are welcome additions to the neighborhood and owners take responsibility for their pets. Sidewalks and pet friendly landscaping make the community more enjoyable for all.
- Are there any dog parks?
A good sign of pet friendliness is a dog park. Visit the park if there is one and see how the owners monitor their dogs, and how well the dogs get along. Look to see if the grass and fence are well maintained and that water is available. Some of the best parks are those where the dog owners take responsibility to make certain everything is in working order.
- Is the overall neighborhood well kept?
Common areas, community and fitness centers often reflect the management’s overall attention to detail and upkeep of the community. Tour the community and pay attention to the little things. Are weeds festooning the common areas? Is the exercise equipment maintained? Is the pool clean? How does the carpet and paint in the community center look, and how does is smell inside?
- Do homeowners keep their properties well maintained?
As you look at the property you are considering, examine the surrounding homes. The yards should be cared for and free of clutter. If you see broken down vehicles littering the street or driveways, you may want to keep looking. See if the exterior of the homes and roofs are in good repair.
- Are the surrounding homes pleasantly landscaped?
There is landscaping and then there is planting and putting things in the yard. When you look around the neighborhood, you won’t want to see yards that are eyesores. Think about walking out your front door every day and seeing the yards across the street. If the garish attempt at decorating gives you a headache, you may want to keep looking.
- Are the streets well maintained?
This ties back to #1. Streets that are neglected will one day require expensive repair and repaving, and may result in highers HOA fees. Well maintained streets will last longer and make the community look better. They are safer for vehicles and pedestrians.
I hope these 20 questions will help you in selecting your next real estate purchase. For answers to many questions about SunRiver, click here.