Knowing the worst neighborhoods to buy a home makes it easier to find one worth buying in. An old real estate saying “location, location, location” emphasizes the importance of where you buy your next home.
Sometimes, a bad neighborhood isn’t obvious. After all, you aren’t looking at ghettos for your new home. While a prospective home looks nice you need to know if the neighborhood is worth buying in.
- 7 red flags to avoid before buying a home;
- Benefits of buying the worst home on the best street; and
- 6 tips to buy the worst home on a good street.
We identified 7 red flags to avoid before signing a purchase & sale agreement.
Red Flag No. 1 – Too Many Homes for Sale
A saturated market with too many homes for sale on the same street is a risk to buyers. Imagine when you want to sell your home only to become surrounded by your neighbors’ “For Sale” signs. A buyer wanting to preview your home may visit your neighbor’s house instead.
Ask yourself, “Why are so many neighbors selling their homes”? Maybe, all the older residents are downsizing? Or, the street is experiencing a “hot” market? More sinister, maybe the crime rate is too high?
Red Flag No. 2 – No Parking
Sure, the home has a one-car garage – but where will your spouse and your friends park their cars? If the street has bumper-to-bumper parked cars on both sides, think again about buying the home.
Plan for adequate parking for all your family members’ cars and a friend. A carport with enough room becomes essential.
Visit the home on weekends and at night to see if any spaces are available. Unless you and your family commute to work and school by bike or walking avoid the time and stress of circling the block.
Red Flag No. 3 – Surrounding Homes Not Well-Maintained
To many, a street in shambles makes a clear red flag. But, Realtor Magazine points out some real estate experts suggest prime opportunities for profit exist with “buying the best house in the worst neighborhood”.
Be careful: A street with broken fences, overgrown yards, and run-down homes should scream “Buyer Beware”. This has nothing to do with poverty. Lower-income neighborhoods contain just as many well-kept homes as more expensive ones.
Think pride. A street with no pride in its home appearances and upkeep decreases property values for all.
Next door homes with problems indicate the home you want may hide big problems too. Look for street-wise problems like flickering porch lights and water pooling in yards.
Electrical issues and water pipe problems tend to reflect on more damaged homes on the street. Such problems could lead to major expenses, hassles, and restrict future home values.
Red Flag No. 4 – Local School Enrollments Falling
A school with no physical room to grow should maintain a steady enrollment. Otherwise, fewer students enrolling indicates an unhealthy community.
While several good reasons enrollment might decrease, make sure it’s not for the wrong reasons. Maybe the local school had a recent scandal? Or, suffer from poor management? These reasons may cause a parent to flee to private or charter options.
Or, maybe residents whose kids grew up remain? This leads to older neighbors with no kids for your children to socialize with. While this may not be a deal-breaker, it’s worth considering.
Red Flag No. 5 – Too Many Empty Storefronts
The COVID-19 pandemic closed many businesses nationwide. See if the open stores are thriving or just barely surviving. Are there just too many retail spaces for rent?
Why does it matter? A neighborhood with decreasing disposable income is on the decline. If the nearby homeowners can’t spend money on the local shops, restaurants, or entertainment, it probably means they lack the cash for upkeep.
Meager cash flow leads to shabby homes dragging down property values. This results in future foreclosures. No one wants to buy into a neighborhood with foreclosed homes.
Red Flag No. 6 – Nearby Commercial Influences Leaning Towards Industrial
Neighborhoods slipping into industrial developments means closed gas stations and unhealthy abandoned buildings and warehouses.
The kiss of death for a neighborhood occurs when industrial plants spring up. Be careful about buying a home across from an auto body shop or a car dealership that attracts lots of car traffic.
Red Flag No. 7 – Homes Too Similar
A well-groomed suburban look has appeal. Yet, homogenous streets with the same architectural home styles and colors, and identical front porch furniture warrant a closer look.
If the neighborhood homes and landscaping look too similar check out the Homeowners Association (HOA) restrictions. They could limit your freedom to add color to your home and expand or try out modern landscaping trends.
HOA restrictions can limit your curb appeal when you decide to sell.
Benefits of Buying the Worst Home on the Best Street
Earlier, we touched on purchasing the best home in the worst neighborhoods. But what about buying the worst home on the best street?
The Balance, recommends buying “the worst house in a great neighborhood as a worthwhile investment”. It’s better than buying the worst house on a block filled with ugly fixer-uppers.
While you can’t change a location, you can change the way a home looks. The benefits of purchasing the worst house on the best street are:
- Once you fix up the house, the nicer houses on the street will raise the value;
- The seller lacked the money to fix up the house or it would sell for a higher price;
- Less competition from other buyers who passed up the worst housekeeping the price low;
- Purchasing the worst house is the most affordable way to move into an otherwise unaffordable street; and
- The desirable street ensures the house maintains future value.
6 Tips for Buying the Worst Home on the Best Street
The Balance offers six tips to buy the worst home on a good street.
1. You Pick the Street
Ideally, you seek a neighborhood and street in high demand. Look for neighborhoods offering:
- Good schools;
- Nice parks;
- Good restaurants and eateries;
- Plenty of entertainment;
- Great shopping; and
- Good transportation.
2. Work with a Realtor in the Ideal Neighborhood
Big Block Realty offers San Diego neighborhood specialists to help you. You won’t get far using an agent who doesn’t know the neighborhood. Realtors who sell many homes in your target neighborhood know its history, market trends, and bargains. Contact us
3. View the Comparable Sales
Our Realtors can show you a Comparable Market Analysis (CMA) of similar neighborhood homes recently sold. Besides the prices, look at the amenities of the homes.
You want to make an offer low enough to make the purchase and improvements worthwhile. Then, experience the home’s value rises along with the nicer homes on the street.
4. Before Making an Offer Get a Home Inspection
Worst home on the block sellers never bothered with repairs and sell on an “as-is condition”. While the price is low you must make sure the repairs don’t cost too much.
Before making an offer, you need to know the full condition of the house. You don’t want to make an offer “as-is” that you can’t back out of in case it’s in a “House from Hell” condition costing you more than it’s worth.
Ask the seller for permission to go with a professional house inspector to preview the house for a few hours before making an offer. If the seller refuses, you must make an offer with a “subject to home inspection” contingency. This allows you to back out if the damage is too great. Learn about “contingencies” in California.
5. Get Repair Estimates After the Home Inspection
You need to know what necessary repairs and improvements will make this home compete with the other homes in the neighborhood. Our Realtors can recommend reliable, reasonably priced general contractors or specific professionals for all the repairs and improvements.
You need to calculate:
- Prices for upgrading the electrical, plumbing, roof, and other systems to meet local building codes;
- Prices for high-end design features and fixtures;
- Costs for painting the exterior and interior; and
- Expenses for repairing the windows, doors, floors, walls, and yards.
Adding up all these estimates allows you to make an offer reflecting the home’s true value when completed.
6. Offer Less than Your Bottom Line
The seller might accept a lower offer. Especially, if no other buyers are competing against you.
After the closing, don’t feel pressured to fix up the entire home right away. You can fix it up enough to move in and work on smaller projects at your convenience.
Worst Neighborhoods to Buy a Home – Conclusion
Now that you learned about the worst neighborhoods to buy a home, let’s summarize all these for you.
We explained “7 Red Flags” to avoid before signing a home’s purchase contract. These are:
- Saturated market with too many homes for sale;
- Lack of available parking spaces for your family and friends’ cars;
- A street in shambles with too many poorly maintained homes;
- Fewer students enrolling indicates an unhealthy community;
- Many empty storefronts indicate a neighborhood on the decline;
- Neighborhoods slipping into industrial developments; and
- Harsh HOA restrictions limit curb appeal when you decide to sell.
Benefits of Buying the Worst Home on the Best Street
Some real estate experts suggest purchasing the worst home on a good street. Buy the worst home cheaply, fix it up and reap the benefits of appreciation along with the other nice homes on the best street.
6 tips for buying the worst home on the best street include:
- You pick the best street;
- Work with a Realtor in the best neighborhood;
- Review comparable sales of similar homes;
- Get a home inspection preferably before making an offer;
- Get repair estimates after the home inspection; and
- Offer less than your bottom line.
Want to Buy a Home in San Diego?
Whether you want to buy the worst home or the best one in the greatest neighborhood our Realtors can help you.
Big Block Realty provides experienced Realtors in all the neighborhoods in San Diego County.
Contact us to find out why we are “Big” with 985+ Realtors in the greater San Diego area.
Steven Rich, MBA – Guest Blogger
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