In the everyday world of home building, required permits trigger a series of inspections that protect current and future buyers and nearby neighbors too.
It turns out there may not be sufficient checks and balances in place for what happens outdoors.
Hire Property Inspections Before Buying
Most homebuyers do not realize they should be hiring professionals to inspect their outdoor living spaces too. This is especially important for larger and older properties.
One of the more common sources of heartburn for home buyers is discovering a mature tree is declining and must be removed for safety reasons. The cost for this procedure could be thousands of dollars.
It’s best to be proactive and hire a Certified Arborist to determine the health of mature trees. He or she will know how to predict the long-term viability of the tree.
You should also consider consulting with experienced landscape professionals to evaluate the entire landscape before making assumptions about future upgrades. You may have a swimming pool in mind before buying, only to later discover the property zoning or community guidelines do not permit one.
Here are seven places to look for unexpected property issues to avoid costly surprises.
#1. Water Requirements
Water conservation is becoming a hot topic across the country. You can expect more municipalities to take actions necessary to conserve water resources that could put some landscapes in jeopardy.
In Oklahoma, we are blessed with abundant lakes and rainfall that keeps them replenished. Nevertheless, public water supplies have to be protected. For this reason, it’s likely the time will come when the cost of watering landscapes is a design consideration.
This prediction is not intended to be alarming, but rather, a consideration to keep in mind when balancing green and hard spaces. Paradoxically, having greater green spaces with shrubs and shade trees can minimize moisture loss from your property.
#2. Easement Restrictions
In most incorporated communities there are easements for shared utilities. Property owners typically own this space but are limited in how they can use it.
A common violation is building an outdoor shed on an easement that separates neighbors. One reason for this is to give utility companies access to their lines and the ability to replace them without interruption.
Another example may be a brick paver patio that restricts access. Violations like these may go unnoticed for years. When they are discovered the burden of the remedy falls with the current owner.
#3. Necessary Maintenance
Ornamental landscapes have their maintenance requirements. One of the highest maintenance requirements is a lawn, but that’s not a problem because homeowners know how to do the work or hire a service.
It is not so evident how to take care of formal gardens and special features such as Koi ponds. Birds and other animals may be a serious threat to Koi. Unlike common goldfish, replacing a single Koi can be fifty or a hundred dollars or more.
If you are a new homeowner it will be time well spent to consult with professionals to understand how much maintenance is involved with outdoor lighting, irrigation systems, and fire or water features.
Once again, design matters. Just as there are high and low-maintenance automobiles, so it is with many landscaping features. A professional can help you be sure. He or she will be able to outline typical maintenance costs and foresee future repairs.
#4. Drainage Issues
When buying a new or used home you should receive a plat or survey of the property. If you do not, make inquiries to get one in advance. It’s an acceptable request.
This document will show how the property was designed to drain. You want to compare this to how the property is currently draining.
When patios, retaining walls, and landscape plantings are installed the topography can be modified. If these modifications are cosmetic the drainage function as per the original plan.
Problems arise when there are dramatic elevation changes. This can lead to water collecting in certain areas such as the home’s foundation.
If your inspection of the property reveals unusual or complicated drainage measures, it’s likely the property has a history of drainage problems that need to be resolved before going further.
#5. Overdue Repairs
The most costly repairs are those underground.
A few cracks in a masonry brick wall are minor, provided they are addressed within a season. More important still is inspecting the wall foundation. If that is cracked for settling, remedies should be taken soon.
The hidden costs of minor repairs often have to do with access. If it is necessary to bring in heavy or equipment, the damage that ensues will not be small. Fresh topsoil, sod, and mulch will be some of the additional costs.
The guts of irrigation systems are also underground. You should investigate the age of your irrigation and have a few of the values inspected in advance.
The repairs are not difficult, but if there are more than a few zones the cost adds up quickly.
#6. Community Regulations and Guidelines
Community ordinances and guidelines often pertain to safety.
Some of the most common safety violations involve stairs and steps, landscaping walls, and water features, especially swimming pools.
In addition to ensuring that your property complies, you will want to be sure that all permits are in place with the local municipality and neighborhood homeowners association, if you have one.
Neighborhood association guidelines can be just as sticky as community regulations. There usually a committee of other homeowners that must approve changes or additions. These can include the following areas.
- The proximity of structures to neighbors, such as playsets
- Obstruction of line-of-sight views for motorists at intersections
- Size and depth of water features
- Fencing restrictions, such as type, height, and location
- Allowable signage
Exceptions to these restrictions are rarely made, regardless of the cost involved. So be sure your new home is in full compliance.
If they are not this could lead to problems down the road when you are renewing your property insurance.
We Can Help
Whether it’s a low-maintenance or sustainable, water-saving landscape you’re after, we can help you do it right to ensure it lasts.
Our 25 years of landscaping experience will help you balance the initial investment and ongoing care and maintenance. Give us a call at 918-808-8418 or fill out this easy contact form.