New home purchased - what to ask?
July 10, 2010 6:13 PM   Subscribe

We just purchased a new home. The new home owners were gracious enough to give me a walk through their home to explain how to maintain the pool, and any tips on the garden. Is there anything else I should try to find out outside of the normal, 'how do you guys maintain your home' type questions?
posted by blahblah to Home & Garden (21 answers total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
Things I wish I had known:
- what's the code to the alarm
- who maintains the septic
- do you have a heating guy/plumber/whatever who is familiar with the property
- age of the various major appliances, and whether there are manual somewhere
- is there extra paint/tile/wood somewhere and which rooms do they go with (our basement was full of this stuff, but it was hard to tell what was for what)
- what kind of lawn treatment have you used to keep the yard looking like that, and free of moles
- information about the neighbors
posted by dpx.mfx at 6:21 PM on July 10, 2010 [1 favorite]

Contacts for recommended repair people (plumber, appliance repair, handyman, pool cleaner, etc...), especially if you don't have folks you trust already.

When does the trash get picked up?
posted by zachlipton at 6:25 PM on July 10, 2010

Maintenance schedules: last HVAC tuneup, etc. Any hidden things that might cause problems unless you know about them -- e.g. whole-house water-filters. Use the inspection as your guide.

Preferred service personnel who've worked on the house before, know the idiosyncrasies, have done good work, etc.
posted by holgate at 6:26 PM on July 10, 2010

Also, anything they know related to hidden wires in the walls or on the exterior of your house. It's maddening if you need work on your cable or phone lines and you have no earthly idea where they come in or how they get where they go.
posted by zachlipton at 6:27 PM on July 10, 2010

Help an apt dweller cope with a house had some great suggestions on this topic.
posted by MonkeyToes at 6:32 PM on July 10, 2010

This one's probably more applicable if you own an apartment, but the time to discover that the previous owner walled up the water mains tap because she thought it looked unsightly is not whilst your bathroom is flooding and you're freaking out because you can't. make. it. stop!

If there's multiple phone lines or some kind of system that wires internet/cable to various parts of the house, either find out how it works or ask for the name of the installer.

If there's any unusual surfaces, ask how they keep them clean. Similarly, if you see anything breakable, like fancy ceramic bathroom shelves that you might, oh, knock down with your shoulder when you're shaving your legs, ask where they came from in case you need to buy a replacement.

"Is there anything else you think I should know?"

Congrats on your new home!
posted by Georgina at 6:51 PM on July 10, 2010

How do you turn off the gas/water/power/furnace? Do you have numbers of trusted plumbers, electricians, etc that you can give us? If you're brave and at the risk of them thinking you're weird: Did you bury all your pets in a particular part of the garden?
posted by meepmeow at 7:02 PM on July 10, 2010

"Tell me a little about the neighbours!"

Our former home owner encouraged us to submit an offer after our second viewing, because she thought the neighbours would like us, and vice versa. We were happy to hear that, and it's been true - but it would also have been nice to know that on one side we have the ever-cleaning neat freaks who are really super, but who give our occasionally overgrown garden the stink-eye; and as for the ones on the other side, every approach to the house means a potential twenty minute long conversation with the one who sits on the porch ALL DAY LONG having cigs and wine, but who likely keeps criminals at bay for that very reason. Knowing that we'd have less privacy than we thought out front might have affected our decision (to go for the one just two houses over instead, where we've learned that the other neighbours are never home and much quieter - I've never used the front porch like I thought I would - and eight years later I still feel a little bad for sometimes opening the front window and sniffing for cigarette smoke wafting over in order to time my escape.

It's also nice to know if there are any neighbourhood social networks. We have a local Yahoo group and another site, as well as some smaller parks-oriented newsletter groups that are great resources for finding tradespeople or reviewing businesses.

Ask about upcoming developments, if that's pertinent. When we bought our home the empty lot two doors away was supposed to become part of the park across the street. Now a fifteen unit live/work loft-style condo building is under construction on that site. It's been two years of that in development, and another year before it'll be finished. Which means we couldn't sell at the top of the market, and will now have to wait until it's done and looks like something before we even think about it. And it means I planted some tall-growing bushes for more backyard privacy.
posted by peagood at 7:04 PM on July 10, 2010

Nthing getting the names of handymen, electricians, plumbers, etc.

Not just what day does the garbage come, but when can you put the garbage out. (My neighborhood has rules about this.)

If you're somewhere where pipes have an annoying habit of freezing during the winter, you'll want to know how to shut off the flow to the outside faucets.

If there's a garage door opener, what's the code for the security keypad? (Er, if it works.)

If the owners are leaving you any equipment (mower, snow blower, etc.), find out how it works.

In some areas, there are days set aside in spring and fall for collecting leaves, tree branches, etc.
posted by thomas j wise at 8:04 PM on July 10, 2010

Do you know how to run the sprinkler system?
posted by Confess, Fletch at 8:41 PM on July 10, 2010

In our area we want to know the last time the septic tank was emptied, and approximately where the septic field is located so we don't build a fence through it or plant trees over it.
posted by SuperSquirrel at 8:50 PM on July 10, 2010

If there's a garden, find out its peculiarities.
posted by pompomtom at 9:02 PM on July 10, 2010

Longshot question, but you might ask if there are any unusual city ordinances. Also, if there are any fun activities that the city puts on, like a parade or fireworks. The city next to ours has a police escorted Santa Claus in his sleigh that visits a different neighborhood each night in December (though they usually notify the residents a couple of weeks beforehand). My grandma lived in that city when I was little, and we used to love going out to the end of the driveway & waving to Santa.
posted by vignettist at 9:10 PM on July 10, 2010

Where exactly is the septic clean out? If the house is older and on sewer was it ever on septic? Was the tank removed?

Where is the sewer/drain access hidden?

Is there only one electrical panel for the house, garage, attic, pool and other assorted outbuildings? Is anything NOT wired to the main breaker? Sometimes people wire another line in to an outlet so that they can turn the power off and still work on the house. Sometimes they hide that outlet inside a cabinet then they sell the house and forget to tell the new owner who rips the cabinet off the wall, taking the live outlet with it. Sparks and other hijinks ensue. Houses are also routinely wired for generators directly into the panel around here which might have you going "huh?" if you've not seen it before.
posted by fshgrl at 9:15 PM on July 10, 2010

If they still have their paint chips. You might want to just do touch ups rather than repaint.
posted by orange swan at 9:55 PM on July 10, 2010

Where's the best chinese takeout/pizza/etc.?
posted by crunchland at 5:10 AM on July 11, 2010

Where exactly is the septic clean out?
Not just the septic clean out...If you aren't on a septic, the line from the house to the city sewer main should also have a clean-out. These often get covered over by bushes and other plantings. It's important to know where this is, in the event that your line gets plugged and needs a proper rootering.
posted by Thorzdad at 6:23 AM on July 11, 2010

Not exactly what you're asking but as a general home maintenance duty, check the dryer vent for dust bunnies and if it's plastic, replace it with a flexible aluminum duct.
posted by bonobothegreat at 11:05 AM on July 11, 2010

Another good question, based on personal and recent experience -- did you do any extensive work on the property, and were all the permits in order? I bought a house 6 months ago, and ran into issues where both the flipper who we bought it from, and the guy who lost it to him in foreclosure, did extensive 'handyman special' sort of work, and neither bothered to get the proper permits. Now I'm paying for their oversight.
posted by crunchland at 3:57 PM on July 11, 2010

What does every switch do? How do you turn on/off every light? Which circuits are controlled by which breakers?
posted by squorch at 6:57 PM on July 11, 2010

Thanks for all the answers - the tour went well, and we pretty much hit all the concerns everyone listed. Thanks!
posted by blahblah at 12:54 PM on July 12, 2010

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