I just discovered a new Facebook application which could help change the way people buy property. The name of the application is Facebook Neighborhoods and the basic gist of it is that users are able to meet and interact with their neighbors. The tool is pretty far-reaching; it covers many countries and neighborhoods already and is growing rapidly. I believe the tool is originally intended for neighbors to communicate with one another and stay updated, but I think it could also be used as a great tool for potential homebuyers and investors alike.
Once you are in the Facebook Neighborhood tool you are able to browse through neighborhoods, see what is going on in the particular neighborhoods and also see the names of other people living in the neighborhood. Typically, unless you are friends with these people, you won’t be able to view their full profiles--in case you were wondering what type of people are in the neighborhood--but you can send them messages.
For real estate investors, talking to neighbors can be one of the more beneficial due diligence tasks they can undertake. Neighbors are going to know whether there is a drug house in the area, or a neighborhood thief or numerous other helpful things. They might even know things about the particular house in question. Many times I’ve found that the neighbors know about damage the house has suffered (which homeowners are supposed to disclose, but sometimes things magically slip their minds), or specifics about the sellers such as why they are selling and so on, which can be helpful in negotiation. You might be surprised at what types of things can come up when you talk to neighbors.
Obviously not all the neighbors are going to be part of the Facebook Neighborhood, so prospective homebuyers are probably still better off at least attempting to knock on the neighbor's door (especially for the property-specific information), but for those who are too shy for face to face confrontation--or maybe just don’t have the time--this could be another way to conduct due diligence.
I would use this tool to accomplish a wider neighborhood survey of sorts. I would craft a message that asks a few questions about the neighborhood, send it out and then see what type of responses I get. I wouldn’t ask anything specific about the house, but would start the message by saying I’m thinking about buying a certain property in the neighborhood and just wanted to get a little more info about the area. By throwing out the address--even though I don’t ask directly for property information--if they have some juicy information they just might share it. Mainly I’m looking for information regarding the neighborhood. What do they think of the schools? How is the homeowners association (depending on how wide the neighborhood is; there may be different HOAs)? Any problems with crime? How do they like living there? Things like that. People like to share this type of information, and it will be useful whether you plan on living in the home or renting it out. This initial communication could also serve as a spring board for further relationships with the neighbors so that you can ask them for help in the future for things such as checking on how your tenant is maintaining the property (helpful for out of area investors) and so on.
Questions are your friend when conducting property due diligence and this tool just provides homebuyers an easy way to connect with people who might have the answers they are looking for.