Sometimes we get so wrapped up in making sure we nab the perfect house, that we forget to consider the perfect neighborhood.
The neighborhood and community that surrounds your new home can be just as important as the home itself. In most home buying situations, you’re investing just as much in the location and surrounding amenities because they dictate much of the median price in that area. We’re getting ahead of ourselves though…there really is no such thing as the perfect neighborhood, only the perfect neighborhood for YOU. This is because we all have such different wants and needs. What may be ideal for a family of five could be totally different for newlywed first-time homebuyers or single, young professionals. We’re helping you break down what to consider when looking at potential areas to buy a home. Here are 5 key things to think through when looking at potential neighborhoods.
1.) Location – Walkability & Drivability
- Do you want to be able to walk to restaurants, grocery stores and other amenities?
- If you use public transportation, how close are you to bus and train stops?
- How long will your commute to and from work be?
- Do you like being “in the mix” near events and gatherings, or do you prefer to be more remote where things are quiet?
- What does the traffic look like in the area? Would you feel comfortable riding your bike? Does that even matter to you?
2.) Schools – Even if You Don’t Have Kids, Schools Are A Reflection of the Area
- Is transportation provided? How spread out are the bus stops?
- Are the schools highly rated & accredited? Ask around or use a tool like GreatSchools.org to find out the most information you can.
- How far are the schools from the neighborhoods?
- Do most people in the area send their children to public or private school? If it’s private school, you may have to factor that into your budget.
3.) Crime – Safety is important!
- Go to the local police department and ask for details about crime in the neighborhood and what crimes are most common.
- Look up crime statistics online for each particular area. A good resource for this is neighborhoodscout.com. Also, it’s not a bad idea to look at the national sex offender registry if you have (or plan to have) children.
- Take a walk or drive around the neighborhood and see how it feels. Are the houses in good condition? Take note of the number of high fences, barred windows, graffiti and deterrent signs such as “Beware of Dog”. Another good indicator of safety is if people make eye contact when passing you. This is because residents usually want to make a connection, while people just passing through do not. More people “passing through” or just walking around the area, usually means more criminal activity.
- Trust your gut.
4.) Development & Infrastructure
- How important is greenery to you? Do you want a neighborhood with mature trees and big parks or are you happy with more of a concrete jungle?
- Do you want an old neighborhood with character or a new development with customizable options?
- If the neighborhood is older, find out how the houses were built. Are they mainly on slabs? Do they have copper wiring? Are there any known issues with them that could be a money drainer in the future? If the houses are solidly built with quality materials, it is less likely that you’ll be spending money on repairs and updates.
- Look at future development in the area. This can be found at City Hall or the local Chamber of Commerce. This can affect future taxes, traffic, and demographics of the area.
- How much are property taxes in the area and are they expected to increase anytime soon? Any good real estate agent will be able to provide you with this information.
- What is the current value of housing? Have home values gone up or declined? You do not want to buy in an area where home prices are going down as you may end up taking a loss when and if you sell. Also, see what other houses were sold for compared to ones you are looking at. A general rule of thumb is aiming to be the least pricey house and have surrounding home values bring you up, rather than the most expensive house with neighborhood values bringing you down.
5.) Friendliness & Demographics
- Do you like to be social or keep more to yourself?
- How social does the community seem? Do you see people talking to one another? Are there signs for neighborhood picnics or parades? Talk to people you see out and about.
- What do the household structures look like? Is it mainly young families? College kids? Older households? All of this affects the general personality. You wouldn’t want to move in between two frat houses if you’ve got sleeping babies!
- Is the neighborhood dog-friendly? Are there sidewalks or trails for walking, biking and running?
- Is there a Civic League where residents can vote on issues that affect the community? Do you even care?
“…there really is no such thing as the perfect neighborhood, only the perfect neighborhood for YOU.”
If you are currently perusing the housing market, we hope this has helped you narrow down where you want to be. If you have any questions about how to begin the home buying process, our experienced mortgage professionals are ready to help! Happy house hunting!