How to Find the Right Neighborhood For You

by Tonya Dove

 

They say home is where the heart is—but there’s more to it than that. Finding the best neighborhood for you and your family can make a world of difference. The right fit will depend on a variety of factors. Here are a few considerations:

SCHOOL SYSTEM

If you have school-age children (or plan to have them) and intend to send them to public schools, then rating might enter the equation. You can find some helpful data here.

FLAVOR

Do you value historic charm? Certain neighborhoods are known for turn-of-the century homes, while others offer a more modern aesthetic. While older homes come with more upkeep, they can be one of a kind and works of art in their own right.

If you prefer less maintenance and more energy efficiency, maybe a newer home is for you. A real estate agent will know which neighborhoods to seek out or avoid, depending on your preference.

AMENITIES

What are your must haves? Walkability? Proximity to the trails system, neighborhood pool, local restaurants, stores, etc.? Or do you prefer being in a more quiet and remote area?

Evaluate your lifestyle and priorities. If you’re an outdoorsy type, for example, you likely want to ease of access to trails and parks.

COMMUTE

A long commute to work or school can be a real headache. Will you be driving, biking, walking or taking public transportation to get to and from work and other activities? For most buyers, the time it takes to commute to and from work enters into the equation.

How long are you willing to spend on the road? Remember, a longer commute equates to more spent on gas and less time spent with family and friends.

VALUE

Buying a home is a very personal decision, but it's also a huge investment. For many people, a home is one of the most important investments they will make. It’s important to research each neighborhood to better understand the market trends and property values.

Working with a real estate agent who is familiar with the area can help you in this regard. A lot of factors go into determining home value, so you don’t want to overlook anything unintentionally.

CRIME

Of course, no one wants to move into an unsafe area. You check the crime report data to see the type of activity. Has there been a rash of break-ins recently? What about vandalism? Looking at this data might influence your decision one way or another.

PRIVACY

Some neighborhoods are sprawling and have significant space between lots, while others are tighter in their development. If you’re someone who doesn’t necessarily want to hear and see everything the neighbors do in their backyard, maybe a more rural or suburban location might serve you best.

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PROPERTY TAXES/HOA DUES

A smart buyer looks at all the costs of home ownership. Property taxes can add up. Look into what the current tax rate is and how much it has increased in the last five years. Is there another expected increase? How much might you pay in five years? Build this amount into your moving budget.

Similarly, some neighborhoods have home owners’ associations (HOAs) that require annual or quarterly dues in turn for amenities and some upkeep. Ask your real estate agent about the specifics.

 

Finding the best neighborhood can be a balancing act of sorts, but we have narrowed all of this down to three simple actions:

  • Do Your Homework. Ask friends and family if they have any insight on the neighborhood or surrounding area and lean on your real estate agent’s expertise.
  • Have a Clear Idea of Your Needs and Wants. Write down a priority list of what is important for you to have in a neighborhood.
  • Enjoy the Process. Don’t get too caught up in all the details that you miss out on the enjoyment. You are looking for a new home! And THAT is exciting!

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