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What to look for when buying a new House?

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#1 NorthWolf

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Posted 18 April 2014 - 10:36 PM

Ok, so I have to start a new thread, because now it's going to be a house, not a condo. The options are vast, maybe you guys can help me figure it out? What type of house, backyard, direction, neighborhood lighting, etc, etc to look for when buying a house? I want to observe in peace with no one staring or listening to what I'm doing, but not too far from the city because of work.

#2 TCW

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Posted 18 April 2014 - 11:11 PM

Look at the light pollution map for starters. Drive around at night to see if any neighbors have obnoxious lights! South view is important. Look for a lot where you can build an observatory.

http://djlorenz.gith...tronomy/lp2006/

#3 csa/montana

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Posted 19 April 2014 - 09:04 AM

Astronomy is very important to a lot of us; but to base buying a house solely on that will be difficult. If you have children, being fairly close to schools would be important, travel distance to work, etc. Unless you buy a place out in the country with about 20 acres, you cannot be sure of a neighbor's lighting, as they may change their mind, move, etc., and then you could have lighting to read your newspaper by while observing. Look for trees that may block the sky for your observing, also.

Perhaps it would be better to look for a back yard that could house an observatory, to ward off offending lights; and of course if you go this way, be sure to check if there's any covenances that could prevent one. :shrug:

#4 vsteblina

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Posted 19 April 2014 - 10:34 AM

OK, in Wenatchee....this is what I look for in a home location.

South facing slope. We lived in a house that faced north for two years. Forget astronomy. It is a pain-in-the-rear with snow and ice in winter never melting.

Snow fall lines from the roof. We stayed in some vacation homes in snow country where the snow dumped in front of the front door, garage, and back doors!!! That is a real stupid design!

Covered walkways around the house in heavy snow zones.

Wind. Prevailing winds are out of the northwest in spring. They are pretty hefty until western Washington weather improves in early summer. So you want a spot that the house blocks the winds in the spring for us.

Sun. It get to a 100 degrees in Wenatchee during the summer. A shaded back yard in late afternoon, means you can use it instead of hiding in the house.

Those are really the major issues in house location.


Trees?? Why??

#5 FirstSight

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Posted 19 April 2014 - 12:00 PM

EVEN IF you find the perfectly situated house for astronomy, another *extremely* important requisite is that you have a well-qualified, experienced home inspector go over the house with a fine-toothed comb to find any potential structural, electrical, mechanical, HVAC or plumbing problems, and walk away from the transaction if there's any significant potential for difficult-to-fix or expensive problems (usually, but not necessarily one and the same) NO MATTER HOW GOOD THE HOUSE SITE IS OTHERWISE FOR ASTRONOMY. Otherwise, you could find that repair costs preempt any astronomy (or other discretionary) funding for quite some time to come. COROLLARY: If the house as-is is technically in sound shape according to the inspection, but you realize there's something about it you won't be happily satisfied with until you e.g. remodel the kitchen and bathrooms and knock out a wall...this nearly always turns into more (and more expensive, lengthy, and messy) than you thought it would be.

ALSO: you need to know UP-FRONT whether the property and house are subject to any potentially problematic covenants or homeowner association (HOA) restrictions (especially important if you think you might someday build an observatory).

BTW: I don't know the variations on how the home-buying process works in Montreal or Quebec where you are, compared to North Carolina where I am, but here the way it typically works is:
1) Once the seller and buyer agree to the sale price, the initial signed contract is accompanied by a commitment of "earnest money", e.g. $1,000 whicy you pay up front.
2) One of the typical conditions in the contract is the buyer's right to hire a home inspector to visit the property and carefully go over it, and if any substantial problems are found, have the right to back out of the contract and recover the earnest money. After the inspector renders his (often lengthy) full report, if any items are found, there's usually a further negotiation back and forth between buyer and seller about whether any problems are significant enough to justify the buyer cancelling the purchase, what problems the seller will fix before the buyer goes further forward, or sometimes the seller will agree to lower the purchase price in exchange for the buyer undertaking responsibility for fixing things.

THE BOTTOM-LINE POINT HERE IS: THE CONDITION OF THE HOUSE IS A FAR MORE IMPORTANT REQUISITE THAN SUITABILITY FOR ASTRONOMY OR HOW MUCH OTHERWISE YOU (and your spouse or significant other) FALL IN LOVE WITH IT FOR OTHER REASONS. Don't let your heart and desires talk you into something your straight-thinking head should recognize may give you too many headaches to enjoy the night sky view.

#6 NorthWolf

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Posted 19 April 2014 - 03:10 PM

THE BOTTOM-LINE POINT HERE IS: THE CONDITION OF THE HOUSE IS A FAR MORE IMPORTANT REQUISITE THAN SUITABILITY FOR ASTRONOMY


Hehe yes, true, I should have mentioned what to look for when considering a house for Astronomy *after* and if it passes the inspection.

My main concern in my current backyard, are light fixtures from the street and other houses. I had to build a screen made with pvc pipes complete with a tarp and it worked wonders. My view is SSW and I have been very fortunate I find.

Now I have to figure out if humongous 50 foot trees will be a problem. One of the houses I'm looking at has huge trees and another has a NE view. Is that view good enough?

Another house I found is almost perfect, except there's a highway right after the forest. Will those car lights penetrate the forest and bother me and what about that noise pollution, does it annoy you at night? :help:

Also, I will have to ask the municipality if the forest next to where I want to buy will be torn down to build a cinema, or any other major future construction.

As for zoning, I will have to stay in a grey-red zone until I retire, due to work. It's 25 years away though. That's when things get fun, with green-blue zones, observatories, the big dobs :)



#7 LateViewer

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Posted 19 April 2014 - 08:04 PM

Mr. Northwolf,

Noticing the number of postings you have made and how long you have been registered, I am sure you know which home sites are better for observing than others. So when it comes down to the two or three possible homes, or condos, that suit the other parts of your life you will know which suits the observer in you as well.

Al

#8 NorthWolf

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Posted 19 April 2014 - 08:41 PM

:gotpopcorn: :coolnod: :ubetcha:

#9 Tony Flanders

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Posted 20 April 2014 - 04:18 AM

Now I have to figure out if humongous 50 foot trees will be a problem. One of the houses I'm looking at has huge trees and another has a NE view. Is that view good enough?


I would say that a NE view definitely isn't satisfactory. All the action is in the southern sky; if you can see to the south there's a huge amount of stuff that will remain permanently inaccessible -- including the planets.

Another house I found is almost perfect, except there's a highway right after the forest. Will those car lights penetrate the forest?


Is the forest evergreen or deciduous? If the latter, right now, before the leaves grow out, is the time to find out. Why don't you contact the current owners and see if you can stop by at night?

You might consider choosing a house based on proximity to a park where you can observe. Observing from your backyard is convenient, but any decent astro site needs to be big -- both to have a decent view of the sky and for protection from lights. Buying that much property near a major city is prohibitively expensive for most people.

#10 bogg

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Posted 20 April 2014 - 08:29 AM

Astronomy is very important to a lot of us; but to base buying a house solely on that will be difficult. If you have children, being fairly close to schools would be important, travel distance to work, etc. Unless you buy a place out in the country with about 20 acres, you cannot be sure of a neighbor's lighting, as they may change their mind, move, etc., and then you could have lighting to read your newspaper by while observing. Look for trees that may block the sky for your observing, also.

Perhaps it would be better to look for a back yard that could house an observatory, to ward off offending lights; and of course if you go this way, be sure to check if there's any covenances that could prevent one. :shrug:



Yes you need to always be on the lookout for the unusual things that can make things very difficult. Sometimes a quick drive by or google map search reveals strange things. Always check with the municipality about bylaws that may affect the property or what is planned for the surrounding area. Talk to the building inspector if you can or otherwise the building department, they can be a wealth of information. My wife and I are also looking for a new house. The one we currently have is actually quite good for astronomy, but health reasons are forcing us to move. I have a problem with asthma and unfortunately wood smoke and various types of pollution bring on attacks. Currently we have 9 people burning wood within 300 metres, and many times I must leave the house to achieve fresh air to breath. We have found that the burning problem to be much more restrictive than suitability for astronomy. When you combine the two although I agree that a good house inspection is required I have come to the conclusion that for us it is coming to be secondary to the prime reason health. Sorry for the rant, but I saw this and it just came out. I have been looking for over 3 years and finding something reasonable and healthy for me has been a challenge. :bawling:

#11 NorthWolf

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Posted 20 April 2014 - 09:25 AM

Now I have to figure out if humongous 50 foot trees will be a problem. One of the houses I'm looking at has huge trees and another has a NE view. Is that view good enough?


I would say that a NE view definitely isn't satisfactory. All the action is in the southern sky; if you can see to the south there's a huge amount of stuff that will remain permanently inaccessible -- including the planets.

Another house I found is almost perfect, except there's a highway right after the forest. Will those car lights penetrate the forest?


Is the forest evergreen or deciduous? If the latter, right now, before the leaves grow out, is the time to find out. Why don't you contact the current owners and see if you can stop by at night?

You might consider choosing a house based on proximity to a park where you can observe. Observing from your backyard is convenient, but any decent astro site needs to be big -- both to have a decent view of the sky and for protection from lights. Buying that much property near a major city is prohibitively expensive for most people.


Wow thanks Tony, I should probably make sure I have access to a South view as well than. The forest trees are dedicious with some evergreens. I will have to look into that a bit more.

#12 FirstSight

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Posted 20 April 2014 - 09:30 AM

Unless you buy a place out in the country with about 20 acres, you cannot be sure of a neighbor's lighting, as they may change their mind, move, etc., and then you could have lighting to read your newspaper by while observing.


This has recently been a concern at both the houses we own - our primary residence in Raleigh and our second home down at the coast at Sunset Beach. In Raleigh, the immediate neighboring house to the east has a driveway lamp plus lighting on the garage entrance facing us that, although partially shielded by vegetation in my yard, can nevertheless be annoyingly intrusive into the available observing areas in my yard. The original owner only occasionally left them on past ten pm over the first five years we lived there and the French couple who rented the house for the next two years never left them on, period. But then the house sold, and the first week and a half after the new owners moved in, they left one or the other on every single night, all night. Fortunately, it turned out that this was mostly because they actually weren't in the house full-time yet, and weren't really thinking about what was on or not when they left overnight, or else were trying to make the place look occupied despite no cars visible in the driveway. After they'd fully moved in, they're still not quite as dependable about turning lights off after 10pm as the former owner/residents, but most nights (probably 6 out of 7) everything's off after 10pm that potentially interferes.

Down at the beach, the single guy who owned the house diagonally opposite mine was a regular drinking buddy I'd often hang out with, and though he'd often leave a set of porch lights on while awake that all things considered I would have preferred off, he'd turn them off by 10 or 11pm, and he'd *never* leave the bare spotlight on on the corner of his house facing mine which was a real astronomy-killer, and would gladly turn it off on my request if a guest of his turned it on and left it on. However, a year ago he began renting the house during summers, and a few (not all, just a few) of his renters would leave the dang thing on *all* the time. ALAS, he's now sold the house, and I know *nothing* about the new owners and their lighting habits. I'm about to find out this coming summer, maybe as early as a long weekend the first of May when I go down for some spring maintenance and a little R&R. THE PERVERSE UPSIDE is that if the situation appears to have become more problematic with the new folks' lighting habits, this may force me to finally get in gear to construct the head-high removable set of light shields for my observing deck that I've been scheming and designing-on-paper to create for three or four years now, but haven't gotten a round tuit yet.

BOTTOM LINE: As others have advised, although a key requisite is to visit the prospective property (and surrounding neighborhood) at night a few different nights, even if the existing neighbors don't seem to pose any substantial problems of light interference, also consider what the potential for such might be if nearby properties turn over to new, night-unfriendly neighbors.

#13 BrooksObs

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Posted 20 April 2014 - 10:01 AM

When one is an amateur astronomer in search of a new residence truly suitable as a site from which to earnestly pursue his hobby for years into the future, beyond the physical condition of the home itself, primary is the potential for the particular area to see significant growth over the next 10-20 years. Talking with realtors, or town officials, can give you a good feel of how they see area growing in years to come. Without addressing this factor, one may find themselves living in a place that all too quickly becomes surrounded by development and offending lights. This is an almost universal problem for those of us living anywhere in the eastern U.S. who likewise needs to commute to more or less urbanized areas for our work.

Secondly, I would regard the openness of the home's property. Sooner, or later, you will wish to have reasonable views in most directions. Major celestial events occur everywhere in the sky and eventually the most spectacular series will be positioned such that it turns out unobservable at your site without a good view in that direction. While a good southern view is important, should two or three of the other directions be hemmed in by tall trees, or other major obstructions, you will eventually end up highly frustrated in your observing.

That said certain types of surrounding trees can be your friend. Being surrounded by fir trees is much to be preferred to those of the deciduous variety. The former offer a year-round barrier from outside lighting interference that leafless deciduous trees in winter do not. In the northern U.S. winter skies in any developed area become strikingly brighter once the trees have lost their leaves, since they can no longer overhang and obscure lights in their vicinity.

Be sure to check out each seemingly suitable residence at night. You never known what unusual lighting problems, not apparent in daylight, may decrease the site's suitability at night.

Don't overlook the benefit of consulting several realty agents in your search, specifically indicating that you are looking for, "a home with great scenic views in all directions". This often makes such sites a lot easier to locate rather than simply searching on your own. You will often be pleasantly surprised by what these folks can turn up in the area you are interested in.

And above all, if you plan on staying in your new purchase for a long time without moving again, really take your time to look for a location that offers the maximum benefits. Don't trade off too much, settle too quickly, or you will be sorry.

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#14 FirstSight

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Posted 20 April 2014 - 10:18 AM

...certain types of surrounding trees can be your friend. Being surrounded by fir trees is much to be preferred to those of the deciduous variety. The former offer a year-round barrier from outside lighting interference that leafless deciduous trees in winter do not.


Also, don't be lulled by the appearance of a lush screen of just-right trees if a significant portion of them are on a neighboring property rather than the one you are considering. The neighboring owner may at some point have quite different ideas about whether their continued presence is constructive to their own purposes, especially if (and after) the property turns over to new owners at some point. Trees that are a pleasurable presence to you may seem an impediment to a better view or better natural light (or even street view of their house) to the neighboring owner. For example, after we sold the house we used to live in several years ago, we later learned that the new owner cut down a magnificent stand of mature pine trees in its back yard that shaded the house from summer's heat, because the new owner simply didn't like pine trees.

#15 TCW

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Posted 20 April 2014 - 02:15 PM

Also keep in mind that trees grow. That view you had a few years ago might just be lost due to tree growth. Many trees can grow several feet a year.

#16 NorthWolf

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Posted 20 April 2014 - 04:26 PM

Great info everyone, thanks a ton! I will know what to look for better now and may have a bunch of looking around do too, I will let some real estate agents know what I am looking for as well.

By the way, is a sceptic system/artesian well hard to deal with? Found a nice place in the outskirts where the whole street has the same system in place, instead of municipality water and sewage.

Also, where do you guys find it the most practical to set you're telescopes on, besides an small observatory that is. On a wooded balcony/patio, on covered soil, cement? And what type of trees would you use to surround you're yard with? I can 't go around cutting 50 foot trees. :question:

#17 BrooksObs

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Posted 20 April 2014 - 06:26 PM

By the way, is a sceptic system/artesian well hard to deal with? Found a nice place in the outskirts where the whole street has the same system in place, instead of municipality water and sewage.


There are pros and cons both ways. A master septic system and/or well serving a whole housing development will usually be the developer's responsibility (you will pay monthly to maintain service). On the other side of the coin, many of these companies at some point wish to divest themselves of the responsibility...or sometimes just walk away! That happened elsewhere in my town. Nightmare scenario!

Individual septics and wells are the homeowner's responsibility and expense. The former needs regular professional cleaning every 3-6 years. As to the well, always find out what the volume of flow is currently before a purchase; how deep the well draws from; the total depth of the well and, if possible, learn the depth of wells serving some of the surrounding nearby homes.

My well and that of the home across the street from me were built at the same time in a then sparsely developed area. I went deep with my well; the neighbor went shallow with his, stopping just when ground water was hit. As the number of homes grew on my street, the neighbor lost water one dry summer. You never want to run out of water! They were stuck with a very large bill for having their well re-drilled much deeper.

BrooksObs

#18 csa/montana

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Posted 21 April 2014 - 09:35 AM

When I lived in town, our entire street was on a master septic system. No one else was allowed to connect to it. The homeowners paid a yearly fee that covered upkeep. Never had a problem. We all did have our own individual wells, however.

#19 vsteblina

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Posted 21 April 2014 - 10:40 AM

Also keep in mind that trees grow. That view you had a few years ago might just be lost due to tree growth. Many trees can grow several feet a year.


Yes, but that is why there are chainsaws!!! Remember a tree is just a wannabe stump.

#20 sickfish

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Posted 21 April 2014 - 01:21 PM

Does it have termites.
For astronomy it would be a very small factor there are to many other things to consider, schools, crime, taxes, a nice place to have kids. Also the wife will overrule anything you want. A dark site close by would be good. :smirk:

#21 TCW

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Posted 21 April 2014 - 01:52 PM

Also keep in mind that trees grow. That view you had a few years ago might just be lost due to tree growth. Many trees can grow several feet a year.


Yes, but that is why there are chainsaws!!! Remember a tree is just a wannabe stump.


If they are your neighbors trees they may not be amused!

#22 Phillip Creed

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Posted 21 April 2014 - 07:23 PM

A couple of things for astronomy criteria in a house search:

At these latitudes, make sure it's south of the city you're commuting to, for multiple reasons:

(1) This would put the darkest skies to your south and the city's light dome to the north. Even if you have a neighbor with an offensive in-security light blazing away, that means your "escape distance" to dark skies is a lot shorter.

(2) Further south = less snow, all things being equal. Snow cover dramatically worsens local pollution.

(3) Further south = less winter. That's good in its own right, but also because...

(4) Further south = more time with leaves on the trees. When the leaves fall off the trees, I notice about a 1/4-mag drop in naked-eye limiting magnitude, even if there's snow cover.

Clear Skies,
Phil

#23 vsteblina

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Posted 21 April 2014 - 09:50 PM

Also keep in mind that trees grow. That view you had a few years ago might just be lost due to tree growth. Many trees can grow several feet a year.


Yes, but that is why there are chainsaws!!! Remember a tree is just a wannabe stump.


If they are your neighbors trees they may not be amused!


No they were not amused. However, coming from southern California trees were unique and rather special to them!!

Then the trees fell in their driveway just missing their house.

Now they sneak across MY property line to cut trees that they think might endanger their home!!!

Common sense...it comes to people based on experience!!

#24 NorthWolf

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Posted 21 April 2014 - 10:56 PM

A couple of things for astronomy criteria in a house search:

At these latitudes, make sure it's south of the city you're commuting to, for multiple reasons:

(1) This would put the darkest skies to your south and the city's light dome to the north. Even if you have a neighbor with an offensive in-security light blazing away, that means your "escape distance" to dark skies is a lot shorter.

I'm surrounded by lights everywhere around the city. Montreal is one of the brightest cities distance wise, perhaps as much as New York City. You can escape to the north where it's nice and quiet, but than again you don't want that as you will have the city dome southwards.

I've driven through Ohio and I've seen how Cincinnati and Columbus are distanced from themselves, it's really not like that here... they use lights everywhere here! All that's missing is the Eiffel tower.


(2) Further south = less snow, all things being equal. Snow cover dramatically worsens local pollution.

That's one thing I keep forgetting about! I need to move to Arizona or Utah!

(3) Further south = less winter. That's good in its own right, but also because...

(4) Further south = more time with leaves on the trees. When the leaves fall off the trees, I notice about a 1/4-mag drop in naked-eye limiting magnitude, even if there's snow cover.

True! I need to plant Cedar trees as they grow to the perfect size I find and are evergreen, I think they also repel mosquitos! My friend just bought a house with 20 year old 12-15 feet tall Cedars all around his land in the back of the house. I tell him how lucky he is, too bad he doesn't have a telescope, but all in due time!

Clear Skies,
Phil



#25 TCW

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Posted 22 April 2014 - 02:03 PM

I don't know what species of Cedar you have but I have Incense Cedars by the thousands and millions of mosquitoes! :p






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