- - Thursday, October 11, 2012

You’ve found the ideal house and are giddy with excitement. It has a front porch and lots of closets, a window in the kitchen and a private backyard. You’re ready to sign the contract.

But have you taken a walk around the neighborhood? Is it quiet? Are there toys on the lawns nearby, hinting of playmates for your children? Is the school within walking distance? Is there a radio tower looming overhead, which could mean spotty reception on your favorite station? How far is the house off the main thoroughfare — close enough to sustain a constant traffic hum? Have the neighbors been there for a long time, or is this a community in flux?

These are some of the questions prospective homeowners would be wise to consider before making a commitment.

“If you’re wondering about the neighborhood, drive by at 9 on a Friday night and see what you see,” said Reid Butterfield with Re/Max Realty Services in Maryland.

During daytime, walk the streets because you will notice much more on foot.

“You need to go around and take a look,” said Jeanne N. Livingston, an associate broker with Long & Foster’s Extraordinary Properties Division in the District.

You want to get a feel for the community, get a sense of the atmosphere and check out the tidiness of homes and yards.

“We’re not supposed to say what’s considered a ‘good’ or ‘bad’ neighborhood. That’s ‘steering’ and ethically and technically, it’s illegal to steer a party toward or away from a certain location,” said Lee Braun, with the Poole/Braun Team in Long & Foster’s Alexandria office.

Good agents are careful not to offer personal opinions, she said.

“But I will give my buyers the tools they need, such as websites that provide demographic statistics and the address of the local police station, so they can find out themselves,” Ms. Braun said.

“We tell people that in this day and age, they should use the Internet to do their own research.”

Schools always top the list of buyers’ inquiries, said John Burgess, a broker with Realty Executives Premier in Burtonsville, and lots of information about local education is available online. School locations, principals’ names, test scores and Parent-Teacher Association contacts all are readily available.

Police departments provide local crime statistics on request and the commonly called Megan’s Law requires a public listing of registered sex offenders and their residence, which typically can be found online.

In the transportation realm, Mr. Burgess encourages buyers to do trial runs from their prospective new house to their most common destinations, including workplace, shopping and school.

“I suggest to buyers alternate travel paths that are efficient and optimal for the time of day and recommend they experiment with them,” he said.

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