Typically, this description is for a newly established community or one where the homeowner’s covenant keeps everyone in line. Elsewhere, the “ideal” may fall a bit short.
There may be a dark side to a neighborhood that few will be willing to share if they know that information at all. A home may have housed illegal aliens, individuals brought to this country to work long hours or to sell their bodies out to recoup the cost of smuggling them in. Another home may have once been a crime scene, where a murder took place and was long forgotten. Or that incident may have happened only recently and the current homeowner is eager to move out.
View this infographic on street crime and tips to keep your family safe.
Much of the information you want to uncover about a home can be discovered with some research and careful questioning on your part. Your state may require disclosure of related crime problems including drugs. Barring that, you can discover so-called “dark secrets” and have these exposed. You then can make a decision on whether to move forward with a purchase or move on to a different and, hopefully, much safer neighborhood.
Discovery #1 — Is the neighborhood safe? The area may look safe, but what happens when no one is around? Security signs on lawns and spotlights everywhere may suggest problems, but it won’t tell you everything.
Your local police department can offer details about a neighborhood, providing crime statistics and specifics. You can also find details about any neighborhood on SpotCrime.com, a website that lists the type of crime committed (arrest, arson, assault, burglary, robbery, shooting, theft and vandalism) the block where the crime was committed and the time and date it was reported.
Discovery #2 — Are there perverts in the neighborhood? If you have children, you will want to know who lives near you and if they’ve been convicted of sex crimes.
To that end, the U.S. Department of Justice runs a National Sex Offender Public Registry where you can put in a person’s name or search by location. Not all states are listed, therefore your state may operate its own directory with that information.
Discovery #3 — Were drugs ever dealt from the home? You might not think to ask this question unless you detected a foul odor or noticed something untoward about the home.
When methamphetamine, a popular drug, is mixed in a home the smell can permeate everything, staying in walls, carpets and flooring well after the previous occupants have left the home according to Marilyn Lewis writing for MSN Real Estate. The smell is bad enough, but the toxic residue — lead, mercy and lithium — can harm children and pets. You can buy a home meth test kit if you need to independently verify that chemical contaminants are present.
Discovery #4 — How does the home take a bite out of crime? You found a home that you like, but you wonder just how secure the home really is. Locks and dead bolts are one thing, but there are other factors to consider.
Factors such as exterior lighting, an alarm system, secure doors and windows. A secure garage, fire and smoke alarms, video monitoring and security bars can make a difference. Make sure that the features included are up to date and match the neighborhood’s crime risk.
There are telltale signs that the neighborhood is a good one too. Children playing out front, street light fixtures that are working and well placed, cars parked in driveways instead of on the street, no graffiti or broken glass, and fenced in yards. Once you discover the secrets or rule them out, then you can base your purchase decision on other matters.