Buying a Home
Important things to consider: Before Buying a Home in Berks or Chester County!
Don't let your emotions cloud your judgment! The house may seem like everything you’ve ever wanted, but before you make an offer, take some time to consider a few things beyond the size, style and price.
Visit the neighborhood various times of day
That seemingly quiet residential street may be a noisy street during morning or evening rush hour; or it may be near impossible to get from your quiet street across traffic in the morning. The adjacent school may seem like a nice perk if you’re buying in the summer, but during the school year, daily noise and extra traffic may be more than you bargained for.
Look through recent newspaper archives
Make sure you’re getting information on what you can’t see. Perhaps municipal water or sewer is being added to the street, or a proposed high-voltage power line may soon be coming through your back yard. You can also check with the city or county to see if there are any proposed projects.
Talk to neighbors
How many people in the neighborhood own their homes? It’s hard to tell at first if you’re choosing an area that’s primarily rental houses.
Ask if the neighborhood has an association?
Is there a newsletter for the association? How often does the neighborhood get together? Even if you don’t plan to attend, the fact that they’re having a gathering says they care about their community and that they want to get to know each other. People who behave that way are building a community. They’re going to look out for you, your children and home.
Quiz the sellers, and review the Seller’s Disclosure Statement.
Sellers of homes in Berks and Chester County PA are required to fill out a Disclosure Statement, unless it is part of an estate, or handled by a Power of Attorney. Sellers are required to tell you about problems now, or in the past – even if they’ve been fixed? Example: an ice dam five years ago may have caused water damage that has since been repaired. But it’s good to know that the house may be prone to ice dams so you can take preventive measures rather than find out the hard way. Discovering the basement flooding was solved by building up the landscaping in a particular area will prevent you from leveling the ground there in later years.
Get a home inspection
Virtually all homes for sale in Berks and Chester counties have some kind of defect, some will be obvious and most will be curable. But knowing what needs to be repaired may help you negotiate a lower price – or at least prepare you for costs you’re soon to incur. Also strongly consider getting inspections for radon, wood destroying insects and (if applicable), on-site well and septic.
Get detailed records on past improvements
This isn’t always possible. But if you’re told the house’s exterior was painted two years ago – and then see a receipt noting the whole project cost just $1,000, then you will be forewarned that budget materials were used and that you may be looking at repainting sooner than you thought.
Consider the view
Look at the neighbors on all sides of you. Are there homes well kept? Are they constructing an addition to their home, adding a garage, storage shed, or fence. This may affect the views from the yard or potentially even from inside the home.
Ask for utility costs
You may adore the modern architectural style, the high ceilings and walls of glass, but winter heating and summer cooling bills may push your monthly payments beyond affordable. Having the present owners cost is important. Even though your usage may vary from the previous owner, it should give you a base line to work from.
Pay close attention to taxes
Don’t just ask what the seller’s most recent tax bill was; ask what several recent tax bills have been. Property tax rates for homes in Berks and Chester county can vary depending on location. Again, look at newspaper archives or talk to your Realtor about the tax rates in each municipality and school district.
Check with city hall
Look into the property’s and neighborhood’s zoning, as well as any potential easements, or other restrictions relating to your property. The seller should disclose these facts, but it’s better to be safe. It is best to work with a Buyer’s Agent when buying a home in PA. They can a valuable source of information.
Reconsider the bells and whistles
Are you sure you can live with a one-car garage, or a detached garage, or on-street parking? The pool may be a nice bonus, but can you afford the upkeep?
Explore the surrounding area
If you’re not local to the area, you may not know that only three blocks away, this pretty neighborhood backs up to a busy commercial area. If the home is near an airport, fire station, police station, hospital or railroad track, expect to hear trains, planes or ambulances. If you’re close to an agricultural area know that it may generate odors or kick up dust.