Finding the right neighborhood is extremely important when it comes to determining how happy you’re going to be with your home purchase. If you get stuck in a place that’s not for you, there’s not much you can do about it short of moving again.
In order to make sure you get the best fit, it’s important to do your research. Keep in mind that you’re not just purchasing a home when you buy a house, you’re also buying into the local community. Consider these questions when you’re trying to pick the right place to live.
1. Will You Fit In?
Knowing the culture of a neighborhood can be one of the most important factors when it comes to deciding if a home in that area is the right choice. For example, if you’re a young adult hoping to mingle with the local community, moving onto a street full of retired residents might be a drag.
On the other hand, if you’re a family with young children, it might not be the best idea to move next door to a college fraternity house that throws huge parties every weekend.
Tip: Be aware of the community experience you’re looking for and try to find a neighborhood that best facilitates that.
2. Does Family Play a Role In Your Life?
New things become a factor when children make their way into the picture. If you’ve already got a few kids or there’s a chance you might have one in the future. Having a yard that’s safe to play will suddenly seem a lot more important. Keep in mind that there’s also the potential you might choose to build an addition onto your home in the future to accommodate for the growth of your family. If this is a possibility, you’ll want to live in a neighborhood that will let you do that.
Tip: Note things like the local education system, crime rates, and the size of your property.
3. How’s The Location…Really?
If you like a house, it’s often easy to over look certain characteristics of the location by telling yourself it’s “only a short drive” from everything you’ll need. However, if you really want to be thorough, test the neighborhood out for yourself.
While the perfect neighborhood might seem like it’s close to everything you want and need, you never really know until you’re driving it everyday! The last thing anyone wants is to realize that you’re spending twice as long as you thought you would in the car every day.
Tip: Determine exactly how long it would take to commute to your workplace and other places you plan on spending time.
4. Is The It A Good Investment?
Before you spend money on a home in a certain neighborhood, it’s important to consider what the future of the area might look like. This will help you decide whether or not you’re making a good investment.
Try to determine if the neighbor is on the rise or on the (dreaded) decline. One good indicator is the local real estate market trends. Are a lot of people trying to sell their homes because a local plant closed and unemployment is on the rise? Are there new buildings on the rise or is everything in the area just as it was in the 1970’s? Is there consistent business growth in the area? Most importantly, if something seems fishy about the area and the people in the community don’t act like they care about its well-being, there’s probably a better place to spend your dough. Don’t be afraid to listen to your gut.
Tip: When you’re in the market for a home, you obviously want to buy something that will appreciate over time, earning you more money down the road.
5. Are You OK With The Rules?
Keep in mind that many neighborhoods and/or subdivisions are governed by Home Owner’s Associations (HOA) which control certain aspects of life in the community. These are known as conditions, covenants and restrictions (CCR’s). They are written bylaws/rules and regulations of a condominium or subdivision that define how the property can (or cannot be used).
For example, there might be a rule forbidding the permanent parking of motorcycles in the driveway. If you just purchased the Harley you’ve always wanted…and don’t do your research… certain restrictions might turn out to be quite the bummer.
Tip: Check with your agent about local rules and regulations and don’t be afraid to ask your potential future neighbors, as well.
6. Notice Anything That Might Annoy You?
Certain things like smells and sounds often go unnoticed or ignored during initial walk-through. It’s not until you’re settled into your new home that you discover the smell of ‘pasture’ looming outside during the summer or notice the sounds from an outdoor shooting range because you only viewed the home on Monday and target practice is on Thursdays…every Thursday.
To avoid getting stuck in a situation where something like a loud noise might wake you up every night, keep an eye out for things like train tracks, animal shelters or shooting ranges during your visits to the property.
Tip: Even make note of things like unkempt properties nearby if that’s something that annoys you. It should, it does tend to lower the value of your home, after all.
7. How Much Are Taxes & Expenses?
Some areas tend to have significantly higher property taxes than others. Make sure you can afford the taxes long term before making your purchase, especially if you’re anticipating your home’s value increasing.
Tip: You should also make sure that you’re aware of fees that might be charged by the local home owners’ association. Most of these have a hefty annual membership fee. Make sure you’re fine paying that before you sign any deals.
8. What Amenities Do You Need?
Many times, selecting the right neighborhood can make your life a lot more convenient if it’s got the right amenities. If you’re already spending time and money making frequent trips to places like the gym, a pool, or the dry cleaners, look for a neighborhood that offers some of these services on site. It’s also important to make sure you’re aware of what public transportation might be nearby and what public services (like garbage pick-up) are offered, if those things are important to you.
Tip: When you’re considering amenities, consider things as specific as what cable and internet providers serve the area you’re searching within. Although it’s 2016, some areas are “just outside” the service areas of high-speed internet, tv and other connections you might care about.
The Bottom Line: Aim to find a neighborhood you can see yourself living in for longer than you plan on owning your new house. If you think certain aspects of a neighborhood are a bit off initially, it’s probably not going to get better.
Like any other step of the home buying process, doing your own research is key. The more work you put into finding the right neighborhood, the happier you’ll be with the final results. If you need a little more information we’re happy to help any time!