If asked, most real estate agents will tell you that one of the most commonly asked questions is about the quality and location of the local schools — an important question, to be sure.

Don Abrams, of Abrams Coastal Properties on Balboa Island, said in an email that other top questions involve square footage, why the owner is selling and whether furniture is included.

Rarely are agents asked a question so important that one day a buyer's life could depend on the response. That question is: "What is the quality of the local medical services?"

Here in Newport-Mesa, we are fortunate to have Hoag Hospital as our main sources of medical care. Hoag is a regional medical facility in Newport Beach providing world-class medical services, whether one is having a baby there, as my wife did in 1992, or on a visit to the emergency department, as I have twice.

Hoag's reputation is evident in the way parents-to-be are eager to say where their child will be born. And when someone has an emergency requiring ambulance service, there is a sigh of relief when the emergency medical responders tell family members that they are taking the patient to Hoag.

Hoag has a commitment to the community that goes beyond providing superior medical care. Everyone who works there has ownership in its culture of caring, whether they are a physician, nurse or custodian.

Hoag is also committed to advanced technology and treatments that could help patients avoid infirmity or even death. One of the best examples of Hoag's dedication to exceptional patient care is the development of their Neurosciences Institute, which treats neurological disorders.

"In its emerging role as a trusted and nationally recognized health-care leader, Hoag brings together the best people, the latest technology and the most comforting facilities for the care of our community," said Dr. Michael Brant-Zawadzki, executive medical director of the institute. "The Neurosciences Institute and its brain tumor program are shining examples of that mission."

On Sept. 17 at Mile Square Park in Fountain Valley, Hoag will participate in the annual Brain Tumor Walk to help raise money for and awareness of a disease for which there is no known cure for some forms.

"Aside from being a corporate sponsor for the walk, Hoag staff and brain tumor survivors will walk together to support funding for brain tumor research," said Lori Berberet, Hoag neurosciences brain tumor program coordinator. "Hoag is sponsoring a booth at the walk, and I will be there to answer questions about brain tumors and our program.

More than just walking the walk for tumor awareness, Hoag continues to involve itself deeply in the community.

"Strengthening support services for brain tumor patients and survivors is very important to Hoag," Berberet said. "We have a very strong brain tumor support group, through which we connect people to services in the community. We are a very active resource in the area, and taking part in events like the Brain Tumor Walk is an important way for Hoag to connect face-to-face with people in our community."

So, homebuyers, feel free to ask all the questions you want about the new house, or schools or the financial arrangements, but I encourage you to also ask about medical care.

If you're lucky, you'll buy your home near a hospital like Hoag.

For more information on next month's walk, please email socalwalk@braintumor.org.

STEVE SMITH is a Costa Mesa resident and a freelance writer. Send story ideas to smi161@aol.com.