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5 ways for buyers to spot a neighborhood nightmare

Cornish Cross chickens crowd the fence in the

Cornish Cross chickens crowd the fence in the pasture at Browder's Birds in Southold. Browder's Birds offers pasturized poultry CSA share in New York City and the North Fork. (2009) Credit: Chris Browder

So, you know about the chickens running loose in the Town of Islip and the accused drug dealer threatened with losing his house in East Northport. But how do you find out about potential neighborhood nuisances before you buy?

Here are five tips:

- Ask questions: Talk to the current homeowner, the neighbors, the local business people. Ask anyone you can think of. Find out whether there are repeated noise issues, problems with neighborhood kids, or issues connected with garbage collection. While you’re at it, go online and Google your prospective street name – or community – and see if any news stories come up. And, says Commack real estate attorney Lita Smith-Mines, make sure to check out the neighborhood at several different times of the day. "If there’s a school in the area,” she says, “check to see how many times a year it has functions that may have people parking all over the neighborhood.”

- Look around: Drive through the neighborhood, checking for low-hanging overhead wires, even a house nearby that’s an eyesore worth remarking on. If you spot a problem with wires, call Long Island Power Authority and ask about them.

- Check with the police: Request local crime stats – break-ins, muggings, etc.

- Mine the sex offender database: Check the website, which lists convicted sex offenders. Plug in your future ZIP code and the site will call up the names and addresses of offenders, so you can check their proximity to your dream house.

- Call the government: “I always recommend that people check with the town, state or county to see if there are proposed street widenings,” says Smith-Mines.

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