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How Come No One Told Us About This When We Were Buying a Home?

Development, it's bound to happen.

Simply because there is a large open field, or the property you're looking at borders woods, doesn't mean it will or can stay that way in the future.

I could rattle off instance after instance where home buyers who may have just closed on a property, are being notified as an abutter that some type of proposed development, they hadn't heard about previously, was taking place right next door to them.

On that note, here are a few questions that, as a home buyer, you need to raise as you look around the property and neighborhood:

  • Are there any subdivisions, large or small, or plans that are expected to be coming before the planning board that would affect your prospective neighborhood?
  • Are there any ongoing or existing subdivisions or plans that would adversely affect your purchase decision?
  • Is it likely that the neighborhood could be redeveloped for another use?

Most municipalities have a Master Plan that gives a plan of action for how the community is or could be developed in the future. Often, discussion is by area, neighborhood or grouped by use.

One of the things you should check out is if there are any changes planned in the short term or long term for the particular area of the city or neighborhood in which you are looking to live.

Neighborhoods go through transitions that include development, stability, and decline/redevelopment. Some areas are in transition from one use to another.

Other areas are slated for actual zoning changes perhaps to a much higher density because of the dwindling supply of land that can be developed.

Getting caught in the middle of such a transition may make resale much more difficult and life at the old homestead less desirable if development occurs all around you that you weren't anticipating or told about.

Zoning ordinances dictate what you can or can't do in a certain area of the city, including what uses are allowed to exist.

Review a zoning map of the area to answer the following questions:

  • Is the residence you're looking at in a residential zone?
  • Does the property border a different zoning district?

    • Does it border a commercial or industrial zone?
    • Does it border another residential zone that preserves a lower density?
    • Does it border another residential zone that allows for a significantly higher density?
    • Does it border a mixed-use zone?
    • Does it border an historic zone or district?
    • Does the property straddle more than one zoning district?
    • What is the effect on minimum lot size requirements?

I have experienced each of these scenarios being at issue with a property I was involved with at one time or another, either as a sales agent, real estate appraiser, as a member of the Zoning Board, or as a property owner.

The advice here is plain and simple.

When buying a home, be sure to do your homework. Don't be like many home buyers who fail to understand as much as they can about the home they want to buy and end up disenchanted with their financial investment.

Copyright 2005 Don Berthiaume


Don Berthiaume gives you the questions you need to ask when buying a home. For more details, and for a free 4-part mini-course in home buying, visit this site now: Buying a Home

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