We love to recount a story that happened last year. Our clients, a fun, hipster couple in their late 20’s, fell in love with a house. It was a nice house -it had good bones, had been nicely renovated and was part of a neighbourhood that was gentrifying quickly. And yet…something didn’t quite feel right.
Spidey Sense tip-off #1 – The house had been sitting on the market for over 50 days, at a time when every house around it was being bid up by over-eager buyers.
Spidey Sense tip-off #2 – The house next door was poorly kept (even by Toronto standards) – stuff strewn all over the yard, a broken bedroom window duck taped. There was something ominous about that house next door, and we couldn’t quite pinpoint what it was.
Spidey Sense tip-off #3 – When we asked why they were selling less than a year after moving in, the answers just didn’t seem to fit together.
So what’s a good Realtor to do?
- We Googled the address. I know, I know, very original, but you’d be surprised to find out how many people don’t do this. Google’s take? The house next door was an illegal rooming house – and a murder had taken place there just 8 months earlier. (we couldn’t make this up if we tried)
- We talked to the neighbours. Sure, it was probably strange for the neighbours to see two realtors at their door asking how they enjoyed the neighbourhood, but, boy did they talk. Did we know about the grow op across the street? The racial tension? The suspected prostitution?
- We staked a midnight stake-out. Seriously. Late one night, we sat in our car and watched what was happening on the street. What’d we see? A continuous string of undesireables entering and exiting the mysterious house next door.
- We called the police. Yes, yes, privacy laws shmivacy laws – you’d be surprised what the cops will tell you when you’re persistent enough. Their take? “I wouldn’t live on that street with my family.”
So what can we learn from this experience?
Caveat emptor! Neighbours impact the enjoyment you’ll get from your house, as well as the value of your property when you eventually decide to sell. Before you make an offer, take a walk down to the street and visit the house both during the day and night. And it never hurts to Google.
Work with an agent who knows the area. While no one will know everything about every street, an experienced agent will know when they need to do a little extra homework (or plot a midnight stake-out). We always say: Downtown agents belong Downtown; Mississauga agents belong in Mississauga.
Sellers don’t always disclose everything they should. Yes, there are laws and requirements for disclosing things that might impact someone’s enjoyment of a property, but things don’t always go down as they should. Do your homework!
(And if you’re wondering what happened with our clients, they bought a way better house in an even cooler ‘hood. And so far, they’ve lived happily ever after.)