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Home Buying Tips


I just bought a brand new home right next to the airport.  Do I have a right to complain about the noise?

I’m kind of on this kick of giving advice at the moment.  Mind, you, this is unsolicited advice, so if you don’t like it, just ignore it.  And, after all, this is the internet, so, beware… (and, sorry if some of this hits a little too close to home...)

Buying a home is a really big investment for most people.  It is probably the single biggest purchase most of us will ever make.  Here are a few seemingly obvious things to think about before you make that final offer or sign the mortgage that obligates you to this piece of ground for the next few decades.

Let me quickly review the three most important rules of real estate –

  1. Location
  2. Location
  3. Location

Now, let’s think about these rules in the context of a few realities that crop up everyday, somewhere, with somebody’s home, new or old.  The value of your home is based on the environmental factors (read LOCATION) present in the area surrounding your home that have existed and will continue to exist into the foreseeable future.  For example, if you purchase a lakefront home on a natural lake that is documented on every map that has been made of the area for the past two hundred years, you can possibly expect that barring an act of God or Congress (acting on the behalf of God) the cottage you pass on to your children will still be on the lakefront.

One of the most startling trends I’ve seen in recent times is this tendency for people to purchase homes in acknowledged ‘at risk’ areas and the subsequent denial of responsibility when faced with the reality of the choice.  Since so many people seem to have trouble with this concept, I have created the following quick reference of environmental factors (again, read LOCATIONS) that might serve as gentle clues to the overall suitability of a particular home.

  1. Rivers, streams, overflow areas.  If the property on which you home is built has flooded in the last 100 years, it will flood again.  When your home floods, your responsibility is to make sure the environment is not polluted by the contents of your home and does not pose a threat or hazard to those downstream from you.  You do not get to complain about the water, the mud, the repair bill or the increased insurance costs.

  2. Golf Courses – If you don’t want windows broken or stray balls on your lawn, don’t buy a house on a golf course.  You don’t even have the right to expect that the golfers have sufficient skills to keep their ball in the fairway.  It’s acceptable to be amazed when you find a ball in your front yard, but that’s about it.  You have the right to wear a hardhat when working or relaxing in your yard.  I suppose you could heckle duffers as they pass your place, but that’s about it.

  3. Cliffs, steep hillsides, bluffs… - Cliffs are usually the natural result of erosion in some form or another.  If your home is at the top of a cliff today, you can expect that it will be at the bottom at some point in the future.  Steep hillsides are prone to sliding.  Get used to it.  Put seatbelts on your sofa and chairs.  Install airbags on doors.  Get ready to ride!  You don’t have the right even to expect you will survive the trip. 

  4. Airports – By their very nature, airports are noisy.  Airplanes take a lot of space to maneuver into position for takeoff and landing.  This process is, again, noisy.  Unless the airport was planned and built AFTER you purchased your home, the noise from the airport is part of the environmental factors package you purchased.  This burden is shared by all of your neighbors.  Yes, it may have an impact on the value of your home.  Why do you think you got such a good deal on it in the first place?  Air traffic is increasing across the nation.  Better get used to it.

  5. Freeways, railroad tracks – A few years ago I saw a brand new fancy apartment building built adjacent to a very busy section of interstate freeway.  A few weeks after its completion a very big sign went up on the wall – Apartments for Rent: Real Cheap (or something to that effect).  I wonder why.  Do you think maybe you might get exactly what you pay for?  Same thing for a home adjacent to one of these facilities. 

  6. Parks and schools - If the sounds of happy children push you over the edge, by all means avoid living by a school or park.  Don’t move in and then contact the school principal and insist the kids keep it down.  Like, that’s going to happen.  Note of personal experience here – my stepdaughter was in the marching band at a local high school.  During practice one afternoon a very irate gentleman stormed across the field, confronted the director and said a whole lot of very bad words in front of the entire band because he worked nights and couldn’t sleep because the band was out on the field.  Sounds to me like it’s time to a.) invest in a good pair of earplugs or b.) put the house on the market and move to a quieter neighborhood.


Do you see a trend developing here?  Some things are just going to take precedence.  Whining about it in public forums does not improve your credibility.  You bought the house next to the airport.  Why’d you do that?  Kind of dumb isn’t it, come to think of it?

Lifestyle is a total environment package.  There are the few exceptions – that home on the tracks might be just the thing for a railroad buff.  Then there’s the elderly couple that lives right on the freeway.  Doesn’t matter, they can’t hear anyway.  My point is, a fancy place in a bad location may not be worth as much as a crummy place in a good location, but one man’s refuse could be another man’s treasure.

I once knew this developer.  He owned several acres of prime hillside view property with a beautiful home and a spectacular view of the entire valley.  We’re talking really expensive stuff.  Another couple I knew lived in a small tumbledown house on a few acres on a dusty road outside of town a ways.  The developer approached the couple and offered them a trade – straight across – their old house for the mansion on the hill.  They took the offer with only the slightest twinge of guilt over their supposed good fortune.  A few years later a shopping mall materialized on their old property, now in a rapidly developing section of the outskirts of town. 

Was it a fair trade?  I suppose it could be argued both ways.  Realistically, the couple might have fought development rather than cash in on it.  Instead, they got their dream home, and the developer was rewarded for his speculation. 

OK, I’m digressing.  Anyway, my point is, there are very few really good deals in life.  If you think you found one, you’d better read the fine print!

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