Choosing a neighborhood to plant your family roots should be taken as seriously as choosing your life partner. As we mentioned in our recent love-story blog series —focused on fixer-upper homes — location is the most important factor when choosing a home. But with so many varying neighborhoods out there, how do you pick? As the saying goes when you’re falling in love with “the one” … or when you find the perfect neighborhood … “you’ll just know!”
To help you pinpoint your perfect neighborhood, here are 8 important neighborhood considerations that can help ensure you’ve covered all of your ground to find “the one.”
Do you prefer living in the country, where the townspeople are tight but have enough distance between them to not become a bother? Are you more suburban, where you can expect invitations to neighborhood block parties and progressive dinners? Or are you more suited for urban living, where the big-city attractions are? Check out HGTV’s 12 Kinds of Neighborhoods for detailed descriptions of the typical demographics and lifestyles you can expect from specific neighborhoods, including Urban Core, Urban Pioneer, Cul-de-sacs and Kids, Pedestrian, Ethnic, Historic, etc.
Commute times become a primary factor in choosing your neighborhood. If you work in the city and want to have a short commute, your neighborhood options will be limited. If you work from home, then your location options can be vast. But remember that commuting isn’t all about home-to-work and work-to-home. As applicable, you should consider the distances to your children’s schools and extracurricular activities, your immediate and extended family members’ homes, favorite hangouts, your gym, etc. Where one location can provide convenience to one aspect of your life, it can just as easily complicate another area. So take the time to look at the entire picture.
Got kids? Children become major game-changers when selecting your home neighborhood. If you have kids, take the time to map out their educational and childcare needs. Will they attend a public, private, magnet or charter school? You can get statistical information about your area’s specific schools through the National Center For Education Statistics. We also recommend calling the schools you are interested in and scheduling a tour.
Kids are experts at piling on extracurricular activities outside of home and school. But they aren’t the only ones! Are you involved with any local organizations that require your presence on a regular basis? Do you play on a recreational sports team? What about a church, temple, synagogues, etc.? If you lead an active lifestyle outside of the home, you might consider a neighborhood location that will allow you to continue your commitments with ease.
While you’re meticulous with your math to determine your home-purchasing budget, remember that neighborhoods come with costs, too. Do your research to see if you can afford the county or city taxes associated with your preferred neighborhood. In addition, if the neighborhood has a homeowners’ association, you’ll probably have annual homeowners dues to factor in.
Find out the history of your neighborhood. What year were the houses built? Is it a historic neighborhood? Are there any common problems that homeowners have faced from the original build or during rebuilds, such as foundation or plumbing issues?
In addition, you’ll want to know the appreciation and/or depreciation of the properties and their surrounding areas over the years. Have the homes held or increased in value? What changes to the neighborhood have come about over the years, such as new park construction, added retail spaces, expanding neighborhoods, etc.
With knowledge of a historic, solid, rocky or new past, it’s time to focus on “today.” Although most house hunting takes place during the day, we recommend that you drive the neighborhood in the morning and evening hours as well to get a better feel for traffic fluctuations. You’ll also get an idea about the neighborhood’s activity level. Is it a sleepy, quiet community? Is it active, with kids playing in cul-de-sacs and adults out jogging and biking? Or is it a hustle-and-bustle area with young professionals heading to and from work?
Of course, you can’t beat getting firsthand knowledge from the people currently living in the neighborhood. So try talking to your potential neighbors to get their opinion of the area and community. Current residents are probably just as interested in finding out about you, as you are in finding out about the neighborhood.
Where will you go from here? Projecting the future of your neighborhood is also a major consideration in your home-purchasing selection. Ask your realtor, current residents, homeowners’ association representatives and/or appropriate city officials about any pending future plans for the neighborhood. For example, are there future zoning and development permits in the works? Are any of the community amenities, like the neighborhood park or city library, in consideration for further housing development? Are there plans to build a large tourist attraction nearby? Are there plans for any highway improvements or new street developments that would change the overall landscape of your potential neighborhood?
Choosing your perfect neighborhood is just as important as choosing your perfect mate. Take your time and do your due diligence, so that you’ll know when you’ve truly found “the one.”