First Time Homebuyers? Four Questions You’ll Wish You’d Asked

Purchasing an existing log home or buying land in a new area is an exciting prospect, but some buyers don’t start exploring the area until after the movers have gone and the boxes are unpacked. Imagine the surprise of the builder in Illinois who discovers they are on land near the New Madrid Fault line, or over a former coal mine? You may already have some information up front, but other details may require more research before you are fully informed. If you are buying land, investigate and ask some probing questions about these:

Military Bases
A military community can be nothing more than an occasionally used National Guard Armory such as the one in Hope Arkansas, or an active runway like the one at Hurlburt Field in Florida. A home within range of a military installation could be subject to periods of high noise, and not just from airplanes taking off-there are construction projects, military exercises and other outdoor events such as parades, ceremonies and memorial services that can increase the noise levels in some areas. A serious issue with homes near some military bases is groundwater contamination from jet fuel, oil and hydraulic fluid. A quick check of the local newspaper archives could warn you of any environmental controversies in the area. Residents near Tinker Air Force Base in Oklahoma learned the hard way; sometimes in spite of the best efforts of the military, groundwater contamination doe present a serious problem.

Flood Plains
The residents of the neighborhoods in Grand Forks, North Dakota knew they were living in an area subject to heavy flooding-once every one hundred years or so. Unfortunately the next hundred-year flood occurred in 1997 catching some homeowners by surprise and without any kind of flood insurance. The ‘let’s-stick-together’ attitude of the Grand Forks community in the face of certain disaster was moving; entire communities rallied together to sandbag their neighborhoods and shore up the levies, but in the end the waters spilled over even the highest barricades. It’s best to research which areas are prone to flooding and take at least a twenty-year average to see what kind of problems you could be dealing with in the future.

Forest Fire Zones
It’s easy to assume a forest fire won’t affect those living far from wooded areas. In 2000, Montana residents learned otherwise after hundreds of thousands of acres in the Bitterroot Valley were ravaged by fire. The resulting haze of smoke and debris that hung in the area turned the skyline into a gray, polluted mess. Those struggling with asthma problems found themselves in need of medical attention as a result of the poor air quality, and air quality alerts were common for the entire summer. If you are considering a home within a one hundred mile radius of a forest preserve or other heavily wooded area, it’s a good idea to check out the history of fires in that part of the state.

Urban Sprawl
Residents in some San Antonio, Texas neighborhood enjoyed living far from the bustle of the city while having quick access to their jobs via Loop 1604. The peace and quiet wouldn’t last-only a few years after residential areas became popular in their ‘just-outside-the-rat-race’ location, the area became clogged with shopping centers and cinemaplexes. Those seeking a refuge from the noise and traffic would have to look elsewhere yet again. There is no real way to predict what could happen in a given area over time, but a check of zoning codes might reveal your ideal getaway spot is also zoned to allow construction of a nearby shopping area or other potential high-traffic commercial projects.

Doing your homework before the sale may not turn up any of these potential issues. For those who do find cause for concern, a quick poll of people living in the area may give you some extra information. If you find a military base nearby your home, your potential new neighbors may report that the base doesn’t have an active runway, or you could learn the base is scheduled to be closed and soon won’t be a noise factor. You may discover you’re buying in a flood plain, but that the waters only come up by a few inches in select low-lying areas. No matter what you learn, you’ll decide whether or not to close the deal on your log home equipped with the right information.

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