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Biggest lesson learned when buying your home?

Emily H
December 31, 2017

For those that have bought a home before, what was your biggest lesson along the way? Did you learn things about the process that you wished you had known in advance? What can you share with other people who may be starting down that path?

Share your experience! (photos encouraged)

Comments (251)

  • Leeza

    As a buyer I found our "buyer's agent" didn't really have our interests in mind, either. He wanted the house to sell for the highest amount for the commission, just like the seller's agent. As a buyer, NO ONE is on your side but you. I had to side-step our agent and e-mail the seller's agent cc'ing the owner, myself. Fortunately I saved the sale and we are two years in our home (after six months doing upgrades first).

  • 1stgarden

    I love this thread.


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    Depended on purpose at the time. When completing a rehab to sell we'd have a nice dinner. After escrow closed a bottle of La Fleur perhaps. If we were living in it and no major issue I'd put it on market and delay celebration until in new home. I had worked on a couple of places previously that turned out well and sold quickly. A few more while on E. Coast and near Sacramento went as planned. Then the subdivision, rebuild, lot split and sale, move a house to back lot with offset garage allowing room for 5. Huge amount of work to finish with a gorgeous place on nearly 2 acres and original house on 1 acre facing nicely shaded Elm Avenue. It might have been better to live in the new house without a diforce sale. Note to Celestina; barn/house cats, horses and/or pups will always help celebrate ;) Now living in the hills and trying to answer Houzz for rebuild help on river rock, stone, brick and stucco house that began as catalog cabin then morphed to ranch house. Confusing at times when I run into knob and tube wiring in cathedral ceiling next to kitchen which is part of 100 year old cabin. Or climbing under floor to find, 'ya can't get there from here, only the pipe can.' Wouldn't trade it for a chateaux on Gramercy Park.
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  • celestina89

    @rib57: I don't live in Harris County, although I did for a few years, but didn't like the city nor what the gov was doing or not doing regarding flood control except to add in more concrete and push the water downstream. Ever since I was a child, I saw that the entire (not just Houston) SE Texas floods. That is what nature intended. Man intruded and the average person ignored because most of the flooding was around the concrete natural bayous that are no longer "natural".

    Do you remember the salt dome explosion near Brenham, about 26 years ago? It was in rural Wesley just a few miles south. It held liquid petroleum gas. Yea - accident waiting to happen but no one believed it would. The area was flattened like a tornado hit it. My Uncle's ranch 10 miles away was damage. I felt the ground shake about 60 miles away. A sensor in OK sounded off there was a hazardous gas lead in one of the salt dome caverns. The sensor was about 475 miles away. It sounded an alarm. The dispatcher contacted the worker to check on it. The worker wasn't in any rush. He finally got to the field and saw a large fog looking cloud. He couldn't turn off his diesel engine of his truck. It was running on the airborne gas fumes/vapor. More workers arrived. By then 27 alarms were sounding in Tulsa. Not one person called 911. Neither did any worker at Seminole plant. Finally a nearby neighbor called 911 and the operator could hardly hear the person due to the noise at the plant. The blast registered 3.5-4.0 on the Richter scale. People died. People were burned chemically alive.Buildings were destroyed/damaged within 3 sq miles. TX RR Commission gave permit to use the dome caves for gas liquids. The company was never really held accountable. The gov was indifferent. The industry was indifferent. It was a trade off between revenue and safety. Money won. Everyone said "lessons learned" then moved on down the road.

    Same thing has been happening with SE natural flooding ever since before Houston was born. There are a ton of things that lead up to massive flooding. Some are sand pits, lack of dredging, building concrete to push water faster and faster downstream with a lack of natural ground to absorb it. Less and less natural ground to absorb rainfalls because of subdivisions, expansions of cities, towns, villages. People living downstream of development that pushes more and more water (to drain the rice paddies and fields for housing) down to the Gulf. Years ago, flooding was basically localized. Today, it's all over because man fooled with nature. Now, they are fighting each other over who is accountable. EVERYONE is accountable.

    Only way I know to protect people who live in a flood area of any kind is to build up on stilts or make the first 30' as your first story concrete basement and live on the second and third stories. Have steps as well as elevator (which will be destroyed in a flood). Some folks in Meyerland are already realizing if they want to live there, they have to change. So they are raising their houses above the so-called 500 year flood plain.

  • redsilver

    Gee, it's a big nation. You can raise you home, and than a storm of wind comes along. Find a safe place to live where gas lines and salt domes(lol) and hurricanes and tornadoes and ice storms are not common. Than you will find the 2 legged creature to cause one grief....just read the conclusion paragraph...https://www.peakprosperity.com/blog/110549/harvey-major-still-unfolding-disaster

  • redsilver

    https://www.peakprosperity.com/blog/110549/harvey-major-still-unfolding-disaster Just read the Conclusion Paragraph... It's not a good place or a safe place to raise a family or live in retirement, basically.

  • celestina89

    @redsilver: If you have kept up with the information from the various river and flood control agencies plus what is actually happening now, you will find some cohesiveness. No, it will not replace people's houses who live near a bayou, river, creek, reservoir, lake, wetlands and flood zones of various types, but it will provide some viable means to help deter additional flooding in places that don't flood now.

    Houston and area of SE Texas have flooded ever since man has a recorded such instances. It's prairie land. There were 16 major floods between 1836 and 1936 with depths up to 40'. This doesn't include all the minor flooding. And there wasn't even 400,000 people in the area then. Consider that today there is over 6 million soles who live here. Houston and SE Texas has always flooded and always will.

    Whether or not folks learn from past mistakes and failed attempts to change nature - well, let's say with all the development in this area and then some, if it wasn't for constant improvement of flood control, there would be a heck of a lot more areas flooding that did not flood during Harvey and prior events.

    I like where I live here in the great nation of Texas just north of Houston. I've lived in Texas just about my entire adult life. Half of my family are Texans. Yeah I could live elsewhere, but no where else suits my lifestyle and I deal with heavy storms and rains when them happen.

    No different than people who live in fire zones or earthquake zones, tornadoes or even active volcanoes. You take the pros and cons no matter where you live.

  • triciajoelle

    Crossed my "t's" and dotted my "i's"... so I thought. Bought a 1933 short sale, which sat vacant for over 2 years. Flooded basement/ man cave with mold? No problem. Cracked ceiling plaster from basement water humidity and northeast cold winters? No problem. And on and on... "no problem". The realtor said "no way" due to condition and "short sales take forever". Closed in three months (no problem), and rehabbed with few contractors, including major landscaping. All good, right? Well, the ONE requirement was PEACE AND QUIET. So, looked only at corner lots. This house set back 100' from busy road (traffic= white noise), wooded business park across the street, house behind sat perpendicular- putting their back yard behind my neighbor, no swing sets, basketball nets, swimming pools, etc. Looked at it in January. Purchased in March. Weather got nice... Neighbor behind used front yard with screaming kid, not back yard. Their front yard borders my back yard. Can't tell you how many times we've driven off the property for peace. Screaming heard 100' away- into my house with closed windows. Their back yard sits empty, so my back yard sits empty. Side neighbor? Upon the "get to know you neighbor" phase, I politely told her there is no insulation in the walls, and the former owner lived in the basement because of noise. Her driveway is 30' from my living space- living room/ office downstairs, master bedroom upstairs. 33 yr old unemployed son from hell feels compelled to landscape at 11:45 pm (too hot in the day... or avoiding the cops)... car repair at 1:30am... and WINDCHIMES! They were hung directly across from my living space, but on the opposite side of her living space. She can't hear them with exterior insulation, kitchen cabinets, layers of drywall, and 24/7 blasting tv. Me? Can't open the windows of this old damp house without hearing the ear piercing sound in every square inch, which was the former owners major complaint. Closed windows? 2/3rds into house. Outside? Every square inch of the 100' by 200' lot. Spent many nights on the opposite side of the house (kitchen-downstairs/ closet upstairs) with windows closed. Sent a letter from attorney saying "here's code for noise, please muffle at night". Nothing. "Live and let live", she says. When buying the house, I envisioned meditating on the back porch at sun rise, evening sunsets on front porch with a book after busting my butt for 10 hours digging/ painting/ nailing/ etc. I envisioned the joy of countless hours of enjoying major landscaping of 300 linear feet of gardens, including along detached garage. It's pure hell. It's "wait until it is hot and humid- no breeze, or when the lawn is getting cut so they're not that loud". Now, for those of you who love the sound of chimes? Good for you! Walk your property line to see if your noise is intruding on your neighbor. Google "hate chimes" and see all of the countless people whose lives are hell due to them. If I loved the sound of my dog barking or stereo bass thumping... it doesn't mean that my would dog bark or stereo would be heard outside my walls. Would you like to hear it throughout your house/ yard 24/7? No difference. (And, yes, I've yelled "GET OUT OF MY HOUSE!" on few occasions out of frustration.) To me, the constant high pitch, after almost three years, is accumulative and is unnerving. All night, all day. Inside/ outside. Gardening, getting mail, watching tv, sleeping. The slap in the face is that upon purchasing this house, I went to each neighbor in ear shot, explained that there was going to be major renovations, and assured them that at 4:30 pm, the hammers/ nail guns/ saws were down so they could enjoy their evenings/ dinner after working all day. So, what have I learned when buying this house? Buy in the summer. I'd like to say "talk to the neighbors". They might've told me that chime lady is beyond hated, cuts lawn once a month (love those mosquito's), screams and yells conversations which are heard 300' into others yards, and last two owners of my house hated living next to them (one moved out within 2 years, another couldn't move with market drop after purchase so he made a section of the basement a man cave where he lived for 8 yrs, then died). Or, they were so desperate to have someone move in, they might not have clued me in.

  • Beth Bevington
    I have just reread this. There is great information here.
    Three years after my purchase (as I wrote previously) we were selling and everything that could go wrong did. We had years and years if damage. The realtor chose my inspectors. We were so naive. Used the listing agent! Who was she working for? Seller, Buyer.
    We bought this house 15 years ago. Did not want any boot from our sale, we rolled everything into the purchase. Guess what, the day of the signing there was a check for $22,000. Asked to roll it back in.
    Did not happen. Why, I believe it was the difference between a regular loan and a jumbo. Jumbos give more$ to the mortgage broker! Going into any purchase is worth the time and energy of
    Reviewing everything. Sometimes we are pushed and we should take a deep breath. Wish I had. PS but we love this house.
  • RegularClouds

    Reading back on a few of these horror sales, and, years ago having had a neighbor who was a realtor to boot, I would have to add....always remember ..ALWAYS remember, the real estate agent is there for the sole purpose of making money for themselves. That is why it is called their "job" They are there to look out for their paycheck. Period.

  • smi1e

    I too have owned many homes. My lessons have to do with the neighborhood and neighbors. If I am not familiar with the area I will drive every street and evaluate every lawn and yard for about 2 blocks. I am very social so good neighbors are important to me.

  • triciajoelle

    I did that, too! Half a million dollar homes with impeccable landscaping is my side street and neighbor from hells side street. (Our houses are facing main street, flanked by new neighborhoods on our sides property lines.). The neighbor from hells house looked normal... it was winter in the Northeast when I purchased and all grass looks bad. The previous house I bought (a flip- short term tenancy), I was told "the neighbors are never there- they have a second home they stay at". Two months after purchase, they sold their second home and took up main residence next door- retired. Mean old racist man who constantly spit and drank with wife until passed out on porch. Note: "Flip". In and out of that house!

  • islandprincessmj

    Please Humans! Not buying a house because of paint colors is the most absurd thing I've ever heard. I personally would not want to buy a house that has "MY" paint choices, that would be weird! Every home buyer should go in knowing, (or dare I say WANTING), to freshly paint the majority of the home-PERIOD. If you can't afford some buckets of paint then perhaps you should wait til you can. Paint makes any room your very own and can change the whole vibe instantly to your personal liking. That whole thought itself is soooo.. dated! Please! Geesh!

    I would compare it similarly to buying used fabric furniture such as mattresses, sofas, and chairs etcc.., you have no idea what and who's germs soaked into it, be it animals or human, one can only imagine. Paint also holds smoke and other germs like mold in it. There are many other things to be concerned with!!


  • RegularClouds

    islandprincessmj you say not picking because of colors is "The most absurd thing you've ever heard?" - So, you're saying if someone's opinion is not like yours, it's absurd. Ah. Well, speaking of absurd things.............

  • triciajoelle

    I think what islandprincessmj was trying to say is- when looking for a house, have a list of "things that can't be changed or would be too expensive to change" as well as condition. (ie You can't change lot size, and it would be too expensive to turn a split level into an English Tudor). Turning down buying a house because of wall color that is, basically, a $20 can of paint and a weekend of time just makes no sense. I can't imagine finding a house that has good electrical/ plumbing/ structure/ roof/ style/ size/ layout.... and then not buying it only because the living room walls are blue and I like eggshell... Yeah, I kind of agree. I watch the home shows and see people walking through potential homes to buy, and more often than not I'm yelling at the tv about "Stop looking at the decor.. you can paint the walls!" It's not a car, fraction of the purchase cost, where color matters upon purchase due to the expense of repainting.... $20 can of paint and a weekend should not be a deal breaker. (Carpet color, too!)

  • Lillian Herceg

    One of the biggest lessons I have learned is:


    I purchase my dreamhome and when i took possesion and wanted to park my car into the "garage" I found out that it is way too narrow to safely drive in and out, so I never ever used it to park my car - it stayed in a driveway since 2003.

    What happened when we looked at the house was that the previous owner had that little thing, sports car, that could fit in a pocket let alone carragehouse and we were mislead (vissual misconception that ANY car can fit) that fits perfectly with "BUYER BE WARE".

  • triciajoelle

    Lillian Herceg... OMG! I NEVER thought of that! THANK YOU for the great tip!

  • Lillian Herceg

    Thank yoou triciajoelle - happy to help.

  • Laura Mac

    Yes, good warning! And when purchasing an SUV or truck, be sure to measure. Most don't fit in garages since the older garages are too low...and you can't unload groceries in your garage since the car doors swing up and hit the garage door, so you have to unload outside your garage.

  • PRO
    Best Home Remodeling

    Another great tip: Have an idea of the range of remodeling costs for certain projects in your area as you look for houses, that way--you can be looking at the house with the eyes of what after close remodel costs would be as you decide on which house best fits you, your budget, and your style.

  • dianamm1

    If the place you buy needs messy repairs, such as scraping popcorn ceilings, laying new floors, etc., try to do it before you move yourself and all of your furniture in. I didn't feel I could afford it when I bought my condo and now, 23 years later, am looking to have it done and will probably end up paying movers to take most of my stuff to storage and bring it back after the remodel. When I moved here I had a rocking chair a table and a bed. Now I have four rooms of furniture and wish I'd taken a loan, used credit cards or whatever to do all of that then. I managed to pay off my 30 year mortgage in 22 years so I wasn't as poor as I thought I was.

  • RegularClouds

    dianamm1 AMEN with a capital Amen. Trying to repair, change or clean/tidy anything when it's empty, and you don't have your own things in there is, really, a piece of cake (COMPARATIVELY)

  • Jane McPeters

    In Colorado, don't buy a house with a north facing driveway, that will be an icy nightmare all winter, especially an uphill north facing driveway. And buy a house where the sewer pipe from the house drops down to the main sewer line.

  • celestina89

    @Jane McPeters: I had no idea about Colorado driveways. Does that mean that driveways facing east, west and south never ice over? Wow - that's awesome!

  • woodteam5

    Jane PcPeters, that is true up here in MA and NH too.

  • celestina89

    Being a southerner - like SE Texas, I find it amazing that you can have a house facing a certain direction up north and it won't ice over. I remember visiting some friends in Boston years ago - there was a blizzard the night before I was to leave. The airport was shut down. I remember it was in the late 70s. We had to dig out of the house! I was stuck there for a week until things opened up again. Now, that was an adventure.

    I have no idea which direction the house was facing but it probably didn't matter - all directions were under snow and ice! :) Guess y'all luckier in Colorado, Maine and New Hampshire.

  • cluedin
    I learned that if you want a home in a quiet location, don't buy a house on a dead end or court.
  • triciajoelle

    Even though in PA we don't get nearly as much snow as other parts of the country.... the back of my house and parking area by detached garage gets sun all day. This means... night snowfall gets shoveled, sun melts residue AND (hopefully) dries before nightfall when any moisture left freezes to a sheet of ice. I didn't plan this when looking for a house... just lucked out! Next door neighbor has huge back yard trees which shades drive in front. By the time the low winter sun circles around to hit it? It's late afternoon with little winter daylight left. Always icing.

  • Vee

    I had a most unfortunate neighbor situation not once but twice. Both were severely psychotic- believing I was planting magnets and weird theories of how I was out to get them with my kids as trained assassins or my horse fence as a weapon towards them . Magical magnet rays. I even endured threats shouted out the door and had to call police, then they shouted at the police. If I ever buy near people again, I will park and sit there for 24 hours to watch the goings on. Otherwise i will continue to live out on a big piece of empty land. Yes. I will pay extra to live on empty land.

  • psychologynart

    I always think it is good to ask details about neighbors and to try to meet them. Most people who are psychotic are not into such weird theories. So sorry for you (and them of course, as they have to live in terror).

  • ivy15
    Location, truly, is everything!
  • felizlady
    ❤️ SAVE this article and the comments for future reference. Experience is the best teacher, and if you haven’t bought a home before, others’ experiences are a valuable resource.
  • Jean Fairchild

    Very interesting comments, now let me add mine--at least some of them: if natural light is important to you, go to the house several times before buying, each time at a different time of day. pay attention to which direction the house is facing. If you like to garden, pay attention to how much sun the yard gets. hire a GOOD inspector and do not let him cozy up to the realtor while inspecting--my last house, the inspector exchanged notes with the seller's agent and did not inform me of many problems, such as jalousie windows that had broken mechanisms and a crack in the patio that indicated erosion problems. Three years later, I still have not been able to open windows--can't afford to get them replaced or repaired, and my patio, which is on sloped land, has cracked fully across and half of it dropped several inches And so far I haven't found a contractor willing to fix it (at my expense, of course). There are so many things the inspector could/should have pointed out which I could have used in negotiating the price down on to pay later for repairing them, it still makes me annoyed I wasn't more proactive. Find the most extensive list you can of what to check for before buying a home and then don't worry about looking foolish if you do turn on all the faucets at one time, do it anyway, you will be glad you did later. Plumbing is a nightmare, thanks to former owner who was a DIYer. Roof leaked first year causing major damage. If it is a condo assciation, don't even think of buying unless there is a very hefty reserve in place. One condo I had had no reserves, every year I was assessed thousands of dollars extra to pay for significant repairs to the common area. i finally sold it and moved to a condo that had over a million dollars in reserve!

  • Jean Fairchild

    Celestina 89--Would love to know where you live to get electric panel so cheap--here in Florida a replacement installed by electrician was quoted at "special low" price of $1,000 In our condo association if several owners did it at the same time.Possibly the components don't add up to that much, but labor is very expensive! And yes, owners have to pay for those things out of their own pockets, along with all other repairs to the condo, including plumbing, windows and ROOF!

  • Jean Fairchild

    Diannamm1--beware of storage facilities--i know people whose sofas and mattresses were infested by mice while in storage, and another lady whose boxes of kitchenware were infested with roaches when she took them out of storage and brought them to her newly renovated kitchen!

  • celestina89

    @Jean Fairchild: Electric panels and installation costs depend on the amount of amps as well as type of panel and how many breakers. So there is a wide range. If you get a commercial set up for over 220 amps and 36-40 breakers, yeah, you'll be well over the $1,000 mark. Add more dollars if you connect solar. If you use a residential panel box with 10-16 breakers, it's a lot cheaper. Installation fees will vary per your area.

    You can google "residential electrical power boxes and breakers" for your area then compare with commercial variety. Don't forget to add in costs of breakers and transfer switches.

    Here in SE Texas you can go to Home Depot and pick up a Square D home 200 for $109.00. Electrician and extra breakers, etc. are additional charges.

  • Kris Bruesehoff

    Be sure to confirm property lines.

  • celestina89

    Purdy much all real estate closings, particularly those with a mortgage or third party title insurance require surveys. It's usually so stipulated in any real estate contract.

    A licensed surveyor will confirm and/or set all boundaries and lines according to the legal description history that has been filed of record.

    If a sale and buy is without title insurance, mortgage or other state or country or provence, one can pass property without a survey or title insurance. This occurs sometimes when a person deeds their property over to a close relative for personal reasons such as illness, age, etc. Usually no money changes hands. Generally that person has lived or owned that property for quite a while and has title insurance and survey already done.

    If there are any stipulations such as how the property is to be managed or requirement of the relative to pay upkeep while the former owner is still living etc., it is suggested to draw up a legal agreement. If the owner wishes to put a price on the deed, and the recipient needs to borrow the money to pay for it, then generally survey and title insurance as well as anything attached to that property needs to be legally done.

  • triciajoelle

    In my county in PA a property survey is not required. What a surprise when I put up my fence (not in the initial budget or even a consideration at time of purchase 2 years prior) that the neighbors fence was 3' on my property. Neighbor= reason for paneled fence, not her post n rail.

    This neighbor just sold, private auction, I think. no survey, no home inspection. Now, in NJ- they're tough! Land survey required. Shoot, if a shed is 3" off center from the back property line they say "move it!"

    As for my county... I bought a short sale... horrible condition. Mold central, busted pipes, etc. No county inspection by code needed. The next county over, a certificate of occupancy is required. Again, in NJ, they're really picky! (I'm in PA).

    I had an engineer inspect the property, not a home inspector, prior to purchase, for my own piece of mind. With 2 year vacancy and water issues from frozen/ burst pipes and age of house... needed to know if structurally sound. Really didn't care about plumbing/ heating.. House was a gut pretty much. New circuit breaker box. I paid for termite inspection.. waste of money. Exterminator said "can't get into any place to see evidence". Plaster/ lathe walls of 1933 home. Cinder block foundation/ basement that rose 2' above ground level.. Detached 2 car garage in back of 3/4 acres. Wood joists with tight grain that isn't even available today. As for title insurance? Nope. Didn't get any. Former owner passed away two years prior. Good guy. No worries.

    There was a form filled out by estates realtor with disclosures, as required by law. Never saw it. They had no idea the history of this house. After purchasing, I contacted former owners daughter who visited summers, and then the owner prior to that. Now, THEY were helpful! They came over and told me everything they knew, what they did/ upgrades.

    Each state, even county in a state, is different and it's amazing how I could buy a house in this condition and live here immediately with no care from the township/ county/ state. (I didn't. I moved in 6 months after purchase, using those 6 months to "de-mold", finish 2nd floor to live, and remove 120' of overgrown landscaping around the house).

  • celestina89

    Encroachment on other people's property is not uncommon nor rare regardless if you have a physical survey or not. However, your deed spells out the property description you purchased. If you do not have a copy or the original, then go to the public records division of your county and request one. All deeds contain legal descriptions whether by metes and bounds or lots/blocks or percentage of ownership interests such as in a condominium.

    On property, with or without a residential single dwelling, generally somewhere down the line a survey was done. Once it is recorded of record on a deed, unless an historic owner changed the property by dividing or selling a section to a neighbor, etc. the legal description remains the same.

    Generally any owner that obtains a mortgage through FHA/VA - there is a survey requirement. Most cases, it's paid by the seller, but not in every instance. If an owner, current or previous were required to have title insurance, in most cases, the Insurance Company will require a survey.

    Yes, you can buy or sell real estate property without a survey. In fact, it's not uncommon or real estate agents to ignore surveys because of the type of real estate contract that was signed by buyer and seller. Why? Because if a survey shows any problems such as an undeclared easement or mineral rights or boundary dispute between a prior survey and current deed legal descriptions, then the real estate agent/broker would have no plausible deniability regarding the contract. So, without a survey, agents can deny any knowledge of the problem. This doesn't have to be a boundary dispute over a fence, but it could be an easement setback for a building that was not met. The easement owner could then require the property owner to move that building off that particular easement.

    And yes, courts can sell/auction off "signed off" property without any warranties, guarantees - nothing in writing - nor even if the building is built in the correct location from property lines, easements, roads, driveways (according to locale codes). So a person who buys without knowing anything - well..... to me, that can open a kettle of rank fish.

    If there is a survey problem, generally it can be resolved reasonably without going to court. If the person who encroached on a boundary line is going to be nasty, they can force hiring attorneys, jumping through hoops and the like. This then turns into a settlement in which the encroacher is paid by the land owner to move off the land because it's cheaper to settle than pay attorneys for months as well as court costs even if the owner "wins".

    Anyone can pay for the survey, seller or buyer. It depends on what you agree to in a real estate contract and/or requirements of a mortgage lender, state and federal laws, etc.

    IMO, everyone should get a survey. It only makes sense to protect your investment.

  • triciajoelle

    I saw the property lines, measurements of property on the county website. I live on a corner, so I didn't have to depend on if a neighbor on the opposite side was correct. There was a large issue with the neighbors fence.

    In 2015 when I first spoke with the neighbor, as she was leaning on her fence, she immediately said, "this is my fence". (Well, assumed that since it goes all the way around her property.) Assumed it was surveyed (my fault.) Because her german shepherds charged the fence, and eventually her adult drug addict son moved in and smoked his meth behind her detatched garage, a mere 10 ft from the property line... a decision to put a fence up was made. I mentioned to her that I was going to put a paneled fence up, and was going to get a survey. She said, "oh no, don't have to do that.. just put the posts in the holes my fence is in" (AKA remove my fence). For the rest of the summer, when she saw me outside, be it painting the house or landscaping, she would ask "do you think your fence guys could take my fence down?" I said I don't know. The following Spring I got a survey, the stakes went up. I ordered the fence. They wanted $200 to remove and dispose of her fence. A month past.. then two... Fall is coming. Fence is chosen, deposit is made. I can't take hers down because I can't trust her that she might sue me for taking it down. I sent a lawyer letter saying "you have ten days to remove your fence or I will remove it. She responded that it is not her fence.... and if I take it down, make sure I am up to code. OHHHH!!! So she was playing "you can't put your fence up unless you take mine down" game. She has two large sons in their early/ late thirties. ME... UP TO CODE! The one who paid $750 for a survey. Excuse me while I go get ice for that slap! The next day she left at 2 pm. Me, at 58 years old, hauled butt and took it down myself.... I then called my fence company and postponed the installation for four weeks. Did I mention she has two German Shepherds? Oh, wait, it gets better! She came home, saw her fence down. Ran into the side of the house, then out the back door... stood in the back yard on the phone yelling THEY TOOK MY FENCE! (REALLY? just... REALLY?) Oh, she backed into it twice. 2 wks ago she moved out, made a run for it since son was in jail. Go figure! This was the tip of the iceberg with these people!

    Neglected to mention... Summer of 2015 she stapled garden fencing up against her post n rail. Now, if she is sticking to "Nope, not my fence", I think she owes me for damages to that post n rail. I guess she never thought of that! (I let it go. But a good point!) Anyway, her fence was 3' over the property line. (NOW reread the part where her lawyer admonished me that my fence "Better be up to code".) THIS is why I had the energy of Midas to single handedly take that fence down.... at 58 yrs old, 5'7" and 140 pounds. Hmph!

  • Kris Bruesehoff

    I have had two times in two different states where the listing stated property lines that were not actually what was on record. Not every state requires the land survey prior to closing.

  • celestina89

    The point is not if the state or mortgage company or county or title insurance requires a survey. Point is a survey compared to what is actually being transferred to another party is a protection of your purchase or sale.

    If you don't care about protecting your investment as to actual property lines, easements, building codes as to placement, etc., then that's up to the individual if there are no survey requirements on the table.

    It's simple: If the deed conveyance description doesn't match current survey - then the buyer and/or seller have a chance to correct that before it really becomes a problem.

    Case in point: I purchased land in Texas 24 years ago. The deed conveyance description did not match a current survey in regard to a road easement. The deed granted me ownership of the easement along the property line, however, the road was actually owned by another party. Taxing authority began to charge me property taxes on the easement effective at closing. I caught the discrepancy due to the current survey I had done. And this particular transaction did not require a survey, however, both the seller and the buyer (me) agreed to one due to the split of the acreages.

    At closing neither myself nor the seller refused to close until the title company corrected the situation. In this case, it was the liability of the title company to correct the legal description and change the pro-rated taxes for that year.

    A few years down the road, a common fence between part of my property and the property next to me was under a lawsuit by the federal gov. I won't go into the details, but the survey the gov was using was out of date and the property under a easement order was not the same property line that affected my property. Again, it was quickly remedied thanks to an updated survey and the legal description as recorded in public records.

    Once all that was completed - it took a few years, I finally was able to purchase that segment of acreage to attach to my property. In neither case was it malicious intent, but a problem did exist and both were clarified thanks to confirmation of which legal description was correct and which was in error. That is what a survey can do.

  • triciajoelle

    I'm confused. So, the property lines, length and width, are listed online by the county. Same with pic of house, size of house footprint, according to the county records. Why would there be an issue as to where the lines are? My surveyor came out and staked where the county said my property lines were. 103 by 210 ft Only issue is... a lot of people don't get surveys when installing fences, row of bushes on property line, and driveway.

    My neighbor across the street is also on a corner and the property behind paved a driveway four foot on his back line. County said that since he had stone for so many years, it is now grandfathered in as the driveway being his property. Personally, I'd have the township rewrite the lines and adjust the taxes accordingly. These people don't want to make waves for 300 square feet.

  • celestina89

    People make mistakes. Legal descriptions are generally taken from deed to deed to deed to deed to deed and so on. A typo or as in my case, change in status to where part of the property became a private road easement granting the rights of two parties access to the county road. When I purchased the land, I purchased part of it, not including the private road easement as I was already granted right of ingress/egress legally. However, the county doesn't see it that was in their taxes and showed that part of the easement was my ownership. This was the fault of the title company who notified the taxing authorities of ownership of the entire acreage including the easement. It was then prorated between me and the former owner by mistake. The survey and the real estate contract that the prior owner and myself had done indicated the easement with ingress/egress granted as well as the additional easement for public utilities. This was all different from the prior owner's deeds (multiple due to it was part of a family trust.

    Our country in Texas cannot rewrite anything - they only record legal documents as written by real estate attorneys and processed by Title Companies and Title insurance. Again, it was the survey that made the differences showing the different legal documents of the private road easement, ingress/egress, mineral rights as well as utility easements.

    Generally issues occur through transaction (property changing owners) or through encroachment by a neighbor. Another common issue is typo, or a failure of action by a title company/owner/buyer to reconcile differences with a survey.

    In Texas the fence is the property of the person who put up the fence. If they encroach on other's property, they are held liable. In many cases, the person didn't bother checking the underground surveyor markings which a good fence company locates when setting boundary posts. What you described about your neighbor across the street is called adverse possession. And yes it is legal to do. Generally it happens because the person controls the additional land including paying property taxes. That person established intent and publicly informs the public that it is his/her land. This must be done without objection of the true owner. The timeline varies per state. Some states it can be 10 years, others states it's 20 years. Putting up a 3' fence into your property amounts to public intent to claim the land as theirs under adverse possession.

    To stop it, you can hire a lawyer and sue the neighbor for trespass or have a nice conversation of "understanding" to explore the costs or difficulty of moving the fence to the correct boundary between you and the neighbor. That is what most people do. However, if you don't care about the neighbor taking 3' of your property for the fence, they can establish legal claim of adverse possession if hostile to your interests. In that case, once the claim is made according to your state, you would loose that land. If you should sell, that 3' strip - well you no longer own it, so therefore could not sell it along with the rest of your property. Another way I've seen it resolved is to have a simple limited rental agreement of the land for x dollars per year until you sell your property. If they claim adverse possession, you have evidence to the contraire due to rental agreement/payments.

  • triciajoelle

    There's my confusion. Even with a typo with transfer of title/ property.. what is recorded in county offices is law, unless the county changes it by way of owner proposals at monthly board meetings, survey grafts, letters of approval from both property owners. Even with a simple 2 car detached garage built, when permit is applied for- architectural designs and land mapping.. AND written approval from all adjoining property owners, even if garage is to code in design and placement.

    With a typo... that means I could buy a house and change the lot lines at closing because I want to, and then it gets filed, property records changed, and then the land is mine.

    The way I understood it was... because my neighbor never got a survey or permits for her fence, and it was "Self installed", as most are, it was illegal and she can't claim my property, no matter how long it's been up. But, as you said, even though it's on my land, it's still her fence. (They weren't taking it down, knew I had to in order to put mine up. So I sent the letter "10 days to come down or I will". They said "not my fence" since now it involves labor or 2 - 30 something lazy sons). As soon as she said "not my fence", I got great pleasure taking it down, deeming her dogs unable to be contained without the effort of leash lines, leashes, tangled leashes, and using the yard close to her house to do their business. (3 dogs, 2ce /day, never cleans yard- and trained them to "go" close to the property lines, where the odor does not effect her.). These people are allergic to effort. And there is no way she would've got a permit approved for where SHE wanted her fence many years ago because that needs a surveyor who marks the lines and files the paperwork with the township that he marked the county/ township property lines with intent for fence. The corner markers are steel pegs so deep they can't be moved... in the event that the neighbor wanted to out in the middle of the night and change them. People just can't decide where property lines are.

    As for my neighbor across the street- no survey for the driveway. but the nice owner who lost 4' of his back property said it was loose stone, so when the nice neighbor died and it was sold, the new owners would reclaim. He was shocked to come home to it being newly paved. No permit meaning no survey. He told me that he checked into it and it's grandfathered. Personally, I thinnk that is what he tells himself to avoid conflict with neighbor. The township has no clue that his happened, it has not been re-surveyed by township with newly designated property lines. I am encouraging my nice neighbor to have that done because.. well, I'd be damned if I was paying taxes on land that my neighbor claimed.

  • missybee13
    I wonder what the law would say about a retaining wall. Former neighbor finished his house about 6 months before ours. He sited his driveway on the edge of his lot and in the process added a ton of pit run that extended onto out property burying our trees which would eventually kill them. We dug them out and had landscape boulders installed. We started out working with him about putting in a shared retaining wall on the upper part that would have curved around to be 100% on our property (our cost) but he soon went ahead and put in a less decorative wall because it was eroding and would have undercut his driveway. The wall is perhaps 6 -12 inches on our property. We did not appreciate his lack of cooperation. Since then wonderful people moved into that house. I am curious if the wall would be considered same as fence in terms of property lines.
  • celestina89

    @missybee13: You will have to check the codes, ordinances and laws of your state, county and local government. A stone wall can be considered to be like a fence. A retaining wall is a sort of barrier in that it prevents erosion and soil from moving from one property to another.

    In my area and the state of Texas, if there is one fence or barrier put up by one of the homeowners, that fence/barrier is the responsibility of the person who put it up. If two homeowners next to each other built a fence/barrier together, then both homeowners (and future homeowners) are responsible for the maintenance. If property owners next door to each other each put up a fence/barrier, then each is responsible for their individual fence. Codes in my local government county state that the fences/barriers can be up to 8" apart. Some jurisdictions allow barriers/fences up to but not on the property line, others will state on the property line. Some state fences/barriers are set back from property line 2, 4, 5, 6, 10" or what ever. Others have no restrictions. And if you live in a subdivision, you'll also have your subdivision restrictions.

    In the state of Texas, a restraining wall or any wall/barrierl cannot restrict the natural flow of water. As an example, a railroad has to allow water to naturally pass through either by use of bridges, trestle bridges or underground pipes.

    So, I suggest you research your local government codes as well as state requirements and/or subdivision requirements (if applicable).

  • lorenefrances

    Ditto on the 'find your own inspector', know they will not catch everything and are liable for nothing.

    I would also advise those looking to take the strongest flashlight they can find.

    Check things like caulking; use the electrical outlet 'checker' to see if things were done correctly (many of the outlets in my home were not grounded so had to check all and redo most); ask to see the circuit box and whether there is a record of which goes to what; if appliances are included invest in a home warranty that will cover repair/replacement of same; don't assume yard watering systems are good; check the facia and gutters; if possible, learn about what's in the yard re plants and whether it's a low or high-maintenance yard.

    Be aware how much can be masked by paint (indoors and out) and revealed by a good flashlight.

    I bought a home that seems to have had a lot of DIY work done or sub-standard work by pros that I get to fix.

    Thankfully, the bones are good and I don't mind painting.

  • floatme

    Wow! I agree, a great thread! Lots of information. Unless you live on a private island, you’ll have to tolerate neighbors. The noise is just different in the country vs. the suburbs, too. Suburbs may have all day landscapers leafblowing like mad, out in the country we get guns/target practice at odd hours, etc.

    We love our house, but had the seller from hell.

    Our realtor was amazing with the seller, whom we befriended on common ground (she was happy that we also like moss. Whatever works. We continue to recommend our realtor, and she‘s been a great resource for plumbers, etc. We give her our recommendations, too, for other home buyers new to the area.

    We later realized that the reason that many of our visits to the house, and a home inspection appointment, etc. were all rescheduled because of rain. The roof leaked in 20 places. The inspector was thorough and said the roof would need replacing in a year or so,but since the ceilings are all cedar decking, there was no indication of water damage. We have a nice new roof.

    There was no sign of the ‘above ground’ oil tank and naturally it was in the ground. We took a chance and, while the seller still owned the home, we payed to have it removed, inspected and replaced with a temporary, smaller above ground tank. It cost $2500. If there had been any issue with oil leaks, we would have walked away from the deal. It was fine. It was worth the risk, and we later worked out a trade with some furniture so everyone was happy.

    The design of this mid century house, the beautiful wood, the setting on the property, all made this worth the trouble. It felt like home to me the second we saw it. My husband was not as convinced when we saw dark green walls, fake ivy throughout, wall to wall carpet in the dining room that was kind of grayish-liver colored, etc.

    Paint is cheap!!! If you can’t see beyond the paint color, it will be difficult to see the bones of a house, and you might miss other details, good or bad; or problems that could be negotiable in sale price of the home.

    Remember that newly constructed houses can have problems great or small, as well.

  • maura_whelan

    Don't buy from a flipper. And when having the house inspected get a roofer for the roof, electrician for elec, an a/c person for air and a plumber for the plumbing. This house was not my first, but as a single woman it was. I really like much about it but boy has the learning experience been painful. I looked too much at affordability ( it is close to the beach and in So FL, was least exp for a 3/2) without considering opportunity costs and the fact that I down sized so I wouldn't be a slave to my house. And did I mention I have a teenage daughter???YIKES...hindsight. This site helps A LOT for inspiration...thank you.

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