Ok. I am officially letting my inner planning geek show for your benefit. For those of you who are looking to purchase a home, apartment or land, you may want to seriously take a trip to the local planning department. They have more valuable information than you would expect. Since purchasing property is one of the most significant investments you will make, taking time to educate yourself yourself about the property is worth every minute. Your local planning department has a wealth of information for you for free or a minimal charge. They will have planning and zoning information to hand so that you will know if there are any restrictions placed on the property. This is important to know if you are planning to run a small business out of the property or if you are looking to expand it in any way. You will also learn whether or not the property is located in a flood plain. This is really important. To give you a good example, when we bought a house in Michigan, the lender insisted that the property was in the flood plain. After I did my research at the planning department, I found out that it was not located in the flood plain. I copied the essential documents and sent them to the lender and they reconsidered. I was not required to purchase flood insurance. Further, the planning department will be able to tell you if there are any significant transportation projects planned that are near or around the property.
As you can see, an hour out of your day at the planning department before you close may well be worth your time. Call ahead to ensure that you visit during their hours of operation.