Plan Before You Buy a Home or Condo

By: Barry Cunningham

As a prospective homeowner there are a couple of items that you need to pay attention to that a lot of real estate buyers often overlook. As a prospective homeowner it is important that you perform a little homework to find out info on some little things that if not looked at could become some bigger things to worry about later.

1. Child Day-Care, Preschool: Are they licensed? Have background checks been performed on the employees? How many children were the licensed to manage? Where are the nearby day-care and preschool facilities? What types of programs do they offer? Will there be a place for your child? Which days and what times are available? What are the costs?

2. Public Transportation: The Fort Lauderdale real estate market has very good mass transportation but you should know the bus routes if you will be relying on public transportation. Find out the fees, discounts for monthly passes and hours of service.

3. Recreational Facilities: Fort Lauderdale and South Florida in general have great recreational facilities. Of course there's the beach.

Did you know that although public there are certain area of the beach areas that have somehow been known to attract a certain segment of the population?

I encourage you to visit the beaches in the South Florida area to find your favorite spot.

When not at the beach there are so many parks. Even parks for dogs! Some facilities are open to the general public and some are for members only. Will you be allowed to use recreational facilities in the area?

Is your new home in a public or private recreation district? Are special memberships required? Where are parks located and what facilities do they have? Are the parks used by recreation organizations on specific days? Who takes care of park maintenance and security?

4. Hospital and Medical Services: There are many fine hospitals and clinics in the Fort Lauderdale real estate area. Where is the nearest hospital? Are emergency medical facilities closer? Make sure you know this information

5. Police and Fire Protection: Here in South Florida, depending upon where you live you may have different first responders. Find out who handles police and fire coverage for your neighborhood.

Will your home be protected by a neighborhood watch program? If you live in a gated community find out if the neighborhood has a patrol and what time the gates are manned.

6. Television Reception: Most of the Fort Lauderdale real estate market and a majority of South Florida is covered and serviced by major cable television providers. find out who your provider is and determine if the have any ongoing specials.

Here's a hint, most will have an installation special especially for a new account so be sure to ask.

Often the will bundle cable service with other offers. It's best to take a look at all of your options. If you are the satellite tv type, be sure you are allowed to have one. Some complexes and neighborhoods do not allow them.

7. Telephone And Internet Service: Will telephone service be available as soon as you move in? Most of the phone service in the Fort Lauderdale real estate market is provided by Bellsouth.

Will a private line be available? What other telephone services are available? The cable companies and phone companies are both vying for your Internet service account so be sure to get the best deal.

8. Postal Service: Find your closest post office. Understand in South Florida we have a lot of snowbirds and tourists and our post office traffic is quite heavy at times.

9. Trash Collection: South Florida's trash collection service is operated by municipality which may have contracts with private companies. Make sure you know when your trash pick-up days is and when bulk-trash pick up occurs.

10. Parking: If you live in a single family house, find out from the local police if off street parking is allowed and make sure you find out what times you or your guests may park there.

If you live in a complex, it is even more important that you find out where you and your guests can park. Also, find out the zoning ordinances about parking your boat or trailer.

Lastly, if you are buying a condominium or townhouse in the Fort Lauderdale real estate market, make sure you find out if you can even have a pick up truck or commercial vehicle at all.

Some don't even allow motorcycles. This is very important information to know. Don't take it lightly.

11. Water and Sewer: Most municipalities provide water utility service. Lately we have been under severe dry conditions and we have had restrictions on water use. Call your local municipality for further details.

12. Property Taxes:In Broward County the real estate taxes can be a shocker to many prospective homebuyers. Don't be surprised, find out what the estimated taxes are BEFORE you buy. You can find out more information by going to the tax assessor's office at http://www.bcpa.net.

13. Special Assessments: Are special assessments anticipated? These could be made for any number of reasons - paving projects, water and/or sewer improvements, drainage improvements, schools, parks, sidewalks. Are you expected to pay for special assessments approved or anticipated?

14. Zoning Changes and New Construction: Have there been any recent zoning changes? Are zoning changes anticipated? Is new construction planned that will change the appearance of or the traffic flow through the neighborhood?

This may seem like a lot of work but knowing this information can make the difference from having a happy home buying experience and a lousy one.

The good news is you should not have to do this on your own. If you are working with a Realtor, make he or she work!

Tell them to provide you with a report on all of this information. If they won't do it or won't do it in timely fashion you may want to move on.

If you are buying a home a real estate agent stands to make a lot of money on the transaction (paid by the seller) so make sure you have them provide a service that you are satisfied with.

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