Buying a Home? Be Sure to Check on This 1 Thing First

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  • Some neighborhoods are more susceptible to power outages than others.
  • Before you buy a home, try to find out how often the power goes out.

It's an aspect you don't want to overlook.

When my husband and I were looking for a new home about 12 years ago, one challenge we found was that some of the neighborhoods we liked were located in flood zones. That was an issue we didn't want to deal with.

Instead, we opted for our current neighborhood -- one that's very hilly and nowhere near a body of water. But while we don't get frequent flooding in our town, there's something else we do get a lot of -- power outages.

Power outages can happen anywhere from time to time, especially during major storms. But in our town, the power lines are all above ground and, apparently, not all that secure. Thanks to poor infrastructure, the power in our neighborhood can easily go out numerous times a month, sometimes for many hours or even days at a time.

If you're in the market for a new home, it's important to ask about the frequency of power outages in the area. They could end up being not just an inconvenience, but a source of lost money.

The broad impact of power outages

It's easy to look at power outages as an inconvenience. But in some cases, they can hurt you financially.

In our area, it's not uncommon for the power to stay out for 24 hours or longer. That can result in spoiled food. In the winter, it can also result in being unable to run the heat and putting your pipes at risk of bursting -- a very costly thing to have happen. Plus, when the power goes out during rain storms, sump pumps can't engage, which can lead to basement flooding.

Frequent power outages can also be an issue if you work remotely. If you're self-employed and work from home, they can also translate to lost wages.

It's for all of these reasons that my husband and I decided to invest in a standby generator for our home a few years ago. Not only were we tired of the power regularly going out, but we were losing money by having to toss out spoiled food so often. Meanwhile, I was losing money by virtue of not being able to work. And so we dipped into our savings account and invested about $10,000 on a generator that now kicks in automatically whenever the power goes out.

Buying a standby generator is something you probably don't want to do as a new homeowner because of the cost involved. You may want to proceed with caution if you're buying a home in an area that's prone to power outages.

Do your research

Sometimes, issues with a given neighborhood aren't so obvious, which is why it's important to talk to the people who live there before buying a home. If you were to visit my town's Facebook page, you'd quickly learn how common power outages are around here -- much more so than in nearby towns.

Of course, each neighborhood or town has its own quirks. You may move somewhere that seems like your typical neighborhood, only to learn that evening traffic through town makes a five-minute drive take 20 minutes, no matter the day of the week. That's something you may not want to deal with.

Thankfully, the issue we have in our town is, for us, solvable to a degree -- but we paid a premium to solve it. Other issues, like flooding and traffic, can't necessarily be addressed with money, so you need to be very careful before applying for a mortgage and committing to a home.

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