A home’s physical features are only one part of what make it attractive when you are looking for housing. The neighborhood where the home is located is equally important when considering whether or not you should buy the property. When considering a home’s location, the factors to look at depend greatly on your circumstances and your household’s needs.
If you have a family, then proximity to quality schools matters. If you like to cook, proximity to quality food stores matter. People attending college or any other institution of higher learning will want to be close to their schools. They may need to be near public transportation or have a parking space for their cars. Understanding your own needs and circumstances is key to identifying the right neighborhoods where you want to live.
The first step to evaluating a home’s neighborhood is to define your requirements and preferences. Many people start their home search by looking at what is available and figuring out what is most suitable for their needs. This applies to neighborhoods as much as the physical structure of a home.
What would suit you far better is to identify your needs ahead of time. Start by identifying your requirements. Must you stay within a certain number of miles from your work or your children’s schools, for example? Identifying your requirements can help you to at least narrow down the range or area of your search. From there, you can start to target specific neighborhoods in those areas.
Identify Your Preferences
Once you have identified your requirements, take a look at your preferences. Do you prefer a close-knit community or privacy? Do you want trees or shops? Once you know what aspects matter to you most in a neighborhood, start identifying the neighborhoods in those areas that fit your requirements to find the ones that might be right for you. These are the neighborhoods where you can start your search.
Once you have identified the neighborhoods that seem most suitable for your needs on paper, travel to each one and spend some time there. Be sure to visit at different times of day to get a feel for the daily life cycle of the place. Do not just drive. Walk around and go into shops that interest you. Dine in some of the cafes and restaurants. Notice community gardens and parks. Check out the levels of noise, traffic and activity. Observe the condition of the homes.
When finding the right home, ask yourself these questions about the neighborhood:
- Do you see a lot of home improvements or a lot of homes in need of them?
- Check out the signs posted. Is it a Neighborhood Watch Area?
- Are the streets deserted or are they bustling with people?
- How friendly are the residents?
- Can you see yourself as part of the community?
When checking out a neighborhood, do not just visit during the weekends or weekdays, as this can give you an inaccurate idea of what the community is like. Additionally, make sure to visit each neighborhood at least once each during the week and weekend. Identify the pros and cons of each neighborhood you visit, as doing so will help you narrow down your list.
Visit at Night
When you visit the neighborhoods you are considering to live, do not forget to make a visit after dark. Especially if you have already narrowed down your list from daytime visits, a nighttime visit to each of your remaining choices can really help you refine it to the most likely neighborhoods to target in your search.
When visiting at night, consider the following:
- Are the streets lit or completely dark?
- Are there people out or is it quiet?
- Is there too much bustle, noise, suspicious activity or open conflict?
- How comfortable and safe do you feel in a given neighborhood at night?
Nearby Public Transportation
Even if you do not need public transportation for yourself or your family, it can still be a positive sign about a neighborhood if it has plentiful public transportation for its residents. The reason for this is that public transportation allows access both in and out of the area, for people to work, shop and socialize. A neighborhood connected to the rest of its neighbors tends to be a happier and more affluent.
Home values were over 42 percent higher in 2013 in neighborhoods with public transportation, according to the National Association of Realtors and American Public Transportation Association. One exception to this is when a home is too close to a rail line or a bus stop, in which case unwanted activity levels can be high and home values can be subpar.
Home Sales Stats
The home sales data about a neighborhood can tell you a lot about the direction in which the neighborhood is going. In real estate, an area is rarely stagnant. Rather, it is typically either growing and advancing or declining. To find the neighborhoods on the rise, review sales data to see how quickly homes sell in the given neighborhoods and for what price. Comparing these statistics to their counterparts in earlier years can give you an idea of how a neighborhood is doing.
Suitable for Future You
It is one thing for a neighborhood to suit your needs in the moment, but how does a given neighborhood suit your needs for the future? If you have long-term goals, you to find a house in a neighborhood that supports those goals. Maybe you are not going to school right now but plan to do so in a few years. Can you see yourself attending school while living in the neighborhoods you are exploring? Perhaps you are in school at the moment but know you will need to get a job in a couple of years when you graduate. Do the neighborhoods you are considering provide you access to sufficient employment opportunities in your field?
Considering your future happiness in a neighborhood is especially important when it comes to children. Maybe you do not have children yet, but you and your spouse plan to start a family in a few years. Are there suitable schools near your neighborhood you would want your future children to attend? Imagine the person or family you are trying to be in five years or longer. Can you picture yourself in each neighborhood in each of those time frames still thriving?
By Larissa Shelton –