I’m often asked questions I can’t legally answer or research, but I can share information about how to look up answers to your questions.
Here are a few frequently asked questions:
Did anyone die here?
Washington doesn’t consider a death on the property a material fact. As such, there’s not a clearinghouse or registry, nor a requirement for seller to disclose. There are some 3rd party tools that attempt to collect this information, and publishes it. DiedinHouse.com is one such tool, there is a charge to search records nearby.
Are there registered sex offenders nearby?
The Washington Sex offender registry is available here. Remember that this won’t capture those who are registered as transient and might be “sofa surfing” at a friend’s place, or living rough.
What is the crime rate like?
CrimeReports.com has some great maps with data from local police departments. This will only capture reported crimes, and ensure to check the date at the top left of the page and make sure you’re selecting a representative sample. I think it defaults to one week. I also encourage you to compare your new neighborhood with your old neighborhood. Most people find their neighborhood has more reports than they’d think.
Was there a meth lab in this house?
Particularly if the property was purchased in a forclosure, the seller may not know, so a lab can be un-discovered. Many home inspectors can add chemical tests if you are concerned. The DEA also keeps a registry of known past clandestine labs.
How are the schools?
This is such a tough question. With the recent changes to testing rules in Washington, many schools test scores have dropped dramatically making even great schools look bad if based on scores alone. I love GreatSchools.org as a resource for researching schools–their parent and teacher comments can shed light on the more detailed things that you might need to know about–how well versed is the school in accommodating ELL or learning difficulties, learn the school’s strengths and weaknesses.
Is my new house in a flood/fire/slide/quake/lahar zone? Check out the FEMA emergency management tools and USGIS hazard maps to see.
Is there a decommissioned oil tank?
Local fire departments are the reporting authority for this function, so I would recommend calling them.
Is there lead in my house?
Homebuyers buying a home built before 1979 may choose to have their new homes tested for lead. If you’re planning to use your home as a daycare or childcare facility, I would ALWAYS recommend this test. A home inspector can add the test on.
Is there asbestos in my house?
Homes built before 1980 may have asbestos. Common places to find it are ceiling tiles, popcorn ceilings, asbestos siding, and asbestos flooring and insulation products. You may choose to have your home inspector test for asbestos before purchasing your home.
Was the work permitted?
In most cases, check city permits offices first, and county second. Work done on manufactured homes should have been inspected by Department of Labor and Industries Manufactured Homes Division.
What else should I know?
You should read your title report and all of its supplements carefully. They’re a little cryptic, but as your title contact person (your agent can provide this) for more information. In here you’ll find records like septic tank as-builts, road maintenance agreements which might obligate you to financial contributions to the road, reserved mining, timber, view, airspace, and easement rights, etc. Many of these things are customary and expected (utility easements) others can be big surprises (driveway/egress easement for a neighboring property or shared well/septic systems with neighbors).
Ask questions promptly Most contracts have a limited time in which to back out if the information you find is unsatisfactory. Make sure you know this date from your agent, and if you waive your inspection rights, you may not have this opportunity at all.
If you’re looking for great real estate representation, give me a call at 253-237-2673, I can refer a highly-qualified agent anywhere in America, and even in many countries overseas.
Jessica Ward is an experienced real estate agent who holds a Managing Broker’s license in the state of Washington. She is also a Washington-State Recognized Real Estate Instructor and a State-recognized Homebuyer Educator.