On the Hunt… For the Perfect Neighborhood
When you buy a house, not only do you need to evaluate the entire property, but the whole neighborhood.
From the surface, people choose neighborhoods based on its distance from work, if it’s in a good school district, and if it’s within walking distance from their favorite store.
But, there is more than what meets the eye when looking at neighborhoods.
It is equally important to choose a home you like and a neighborhood you feel comfortable and safe in.
If you don’t know what to look for in your perfect neighborhood, we’ve just made your search easier.
Here’s everything you should look for on the hunt for the perfect neighborhood.
As a rule of thumb, consider these top five factors when you are looking for your ideal neighborhood.
TOP FIVE FACTORS
A beautiful, attractive and well-maintained neighborhood shows residents care about preserving it.
How expensive are property taxes?
Make sure it doesn’t exceed your limits and set yourself back from other financial responsibilities.
3. Easy access
Are local convenient stores, banks or schools within an appropriate distance? You don’t want to worry about heavy traffic while running a simple errand.
4. Safe environment
How safe do you feel during the day or nighttime?
You don’t want to worry about burglars or sex offenders.
Are grocery stores, public transit stops or coffee shops within walking distance?
If walking is your way of transportation, make sure your neighborhood encourages walking more so than driving.
Most research projects start out online. Use the following researching tools to better understand what your neighborhood is all about.
HELPFUL RESEARCHING TOOLS
1. Home searches
These websites also include what amenities are included, number of rooms and bathrooms, what district the home is in and much more.
2. School quality
It is important to send your kids to a high-quality school.
However, where your home is located plays a huge factor on their education. With Greatschools.org, you can see written reviews by parents and students of the school in the neighborhood you are looking at.
3. Commute estimation
Deciding on a neighborhood also depends on your commute to and from work.
You don’t want to spend an hour or more traveling one way. Use CommuteInfo.org to calculate an estimation of what you can expect.
All you have to do is plug in information such as miles driven, how many miles per gallon you car averages and the calculator will generate an average cost of what your commute will look like on a monthly basis.
4. Overall report
To get a condensed and objective analysis, use NeighborhoodScout.com.
This website will cover crime, school districts and real estate reports for the neighborhood of your choosing.
If you shopped for your dream home instead of your dream neighborhood, that’s ok. It’s not too late to assess your neighborhood.
Review these resourceful tips to help you make the right decision.
OTHER RESOURCEFUL TIPS
1. Make a list
To help clarify what you want and don’t want, make a list to help you shop for a neighborhood with those needed qualities.
However, what classifies as your ideal neighborhood may not be the same as someone else’s.
For example, you top wants may include an inclusive neighborhood with a quiet nightlife.
On the other hand, someone else may require a nearby strip of shops, clubs, restaurants and other residents.
By identifying your wants early on, you can go through a process of elimination and find your ideal neighborhood quicker.
2. Ask around
To get the low down on how the neighborhood really is, ask around to get the inside scoop.
Attend several open houses, take a few walks around the neighborhood or spend some time in local stores or coffee shops and ask people for their opinion of the community.
Ask them some personal questions, such as:
- Do they feel safe?
- How are property taxes?
- Are there any communal gatherings?
- If there are any noise level complaints?
And any other concerns you may have.
This will be the fastest and easiest way to hear a valid and honest opinion.
3. New improvements
Take note if current residents of other properties are updating or improving their homes.
If people are taking initiative and keeping their homes well maintained, it shows they care about preserving their home’s glory.
Surrounding yourself with people who care about keeping their home in good condition shows they are responsible and proactive.
It will be easier to observe new improvements in the warmer months, so make sure to do your rounds when you can roll your windows down.
If you see “Neighborhood Watch” signs, this indicates the neighborhood is a tight community.
Attend a town hall meeting to get a better idea of the neighborhood’s overall mission and values.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions, this is a quick and easy way to get the questions you want answered.
Questions can be simple, such as they enjoy living in this town or if there are any communal events that take place throughout the year.
The more questions you ask, the better understanding you will have.
5. Out and about
When strolling around the neighborhood, observe if people are out and about.
Are kids riding on bikes?
Are dogs being walked?
Are there runners on the sidewalks?
This indicates locals feel comfortable and safe.
It’s extremely important to feel a sense of security and this can be proven if current residents are taking advantage of the sunshine and spending time outside.
People out on the town can also show that residents enjoy and appreciate the work of local amenities.
The sidewalks are constructed well, communal areas are well maintained and navigating throughout the town is second nature.
The number of people on sidewalks can suggest they are comfortable and enjoy their surroundings.
6. Crime is low
Obviously, you want to live in a neighborhood with low criminal activity.
Check whether crime rates are low by researching the town’s police department website for statistics or search local newspaper sites.
With this data, you can make a safe and objective decision whether this town meets your safety standards.
Feeling safe in your neighborhood is a huge selling point when looking at neighborhoods.
Each night, don’t you want to go to bed knowing you and your family are safe?
Or know you don’t need to worry about going for a jog or walking to the nearest convenience store?
You should feel safe 24/7.
7. School is cool
As a parent, you want to send your kids to school with strong test scores and fosters a good learning environment.
It is believed that a good education early on is the foundation of how successful kids will be.
Before moving, research schools in the neighborhood to make sure your children will receive a good education.
GreatSchools is a resourceful tool to help evaluate the school’s academic reputation, which is based on standardized test scores.
After all, the next generation of kids will one day be our future leaders.
Brighten the young brains of today with exceptional education.
8. One, two, step
Depending on what makes your ideal neighborhood complete, walking may be a crucial factor.
Take a look around the neighborhood and ask yourself:
- Do cars dominate?
- Are there benches and accessible sidewalks for pedestrians?
If walking is an important aspect for you, it’s important to consider if the neighborhood encourage people to one, two, step all over town.
Walk Score is a great search engine to see the neighborhood’s “walkability” rating.
Score range from zero (“car dependent”) to 100 (“walker’s paradise”), which are based on walking distances to local areas, population density and road metrics.
9. Public transportation
If you are commuting to the city or different town for work, can you easily access public transportation?
Having nearby bus tops, train stations and subways may be essential in finding the perfect neighborhood if you rely on public transit.
However, there is a price to pay when you have super easy access to these amenities.
According to a study done by the American Public Transportation Association, homes with easy access to public transportation often have higher prices than similar homes without it.
Carefully delegate whether if living nearby to public transit will make or break your experience.
10. Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
When shopping around for your ideal neighborhood, it should meet almost all of your standards.
However, will it satisfy you in similar ways in the upcoming years?
You will need to ask yourself: where do you see yourself in 5 years?
If you decide to start a family, or need to suddenly move for a job, your home and neighborhood should be able to support your life aspirations for years to come.
Buying a home is a huge investment, and you want to spend your time and money on a place in a good neighborhood that fosters an environment that can adapt to your life and current and future plans.
11. Homeownership rates
Looking at neighborhoods with high homeownership rates indicate that the community is stable and strong.
Think about it, if there is a high percentage of homes owned, it is a safe assumption people enjoy living in the neighborhood and have little complaints.
Although, finding statistics on homeownership rates may be hard to find, ask your realtor; they may have some information.
They can educate you on the town’s renter to owner ratio, along with repeating trends such as the typical timeframe for ownership or any expectations from the community as a homeowner.
12. Homes are in demand
Neighborhoods with homes that have fast turnaround times suggest that homes are in demand.
Aspiring homeowners are wanting to move into the next available home as fast as possible.
To find out how “hot” the demand is, your real estate agent can run a comparable market analysis.
This evaluation will accurately tell you how quickly homes are selling. Another giveaway for neighborhoods in demand is if new employers are moving to the town.
This will trigger an increase in demand of homes with limited supply, along with a growing population.
13. How is the commute?
The location of your home and neighborhood will determine the commute to and from work.
This is very important to factor in when making the right decision.
Keep in mind, homes located close to large employers or major cities are in high demand, which can indicate a higher home price.
Typically, people are driving or using public transit to get to and from work.
Whichever method of transportation you use, ask yourself: how is the commute?
This will be a daily trip and it will need to be something that is doable and you are comfortable traveling in, whether it is raining, snowing or shining.
Research which option is most economical and beneficial for you.
14. City services
Do you ever wonder how neighborhoods preserve such beauty and cleanliness?
This effort can be traced back to the city’s services.
They are responsible for picking up the trash, plowing the streets, updating roads, maintaining landscape and fixing broken streetlights or crack sidewalks.
Pay attention to the city’s responsiveness to these responsibilities and if they are taken care of well.
Living in a neighborhood that resolves these issues and duties will make a huge difference compared to one that slacks and disregards the neighborhood needs attention.
15. Firehouses and police stations
Take a drive around the town and find the closest firehouse and police station.
Knock on wood, you won’t need their services, but knowing that the town has these professionals nearby can provide you a sense of security and relief.
Towns that have well-constructed firehouses and stations can indicate the town is geared to protect residents.
In some cases, having a firehouse nearby can indicate lower homeowner’s insurance premiums.
It’s a win-win. Be safe and save some money!
16. Change is on the way
It is exciting to see any type of neighborhood experience change.
Whether it is replacing the roads, adding a new strip mall or building a new apartment complex, this can drastically change the whole neighborhood.
Development of buildings can potentially signal that real estate rates will rise due to its new surrounding amenities.
You can also assume that if a neighborhood is experiencing change, the community cares about keeping the area updated and modernized to maximize residents’ living enjoyment.
WATCH OUT for any red flags.
You do not want to live in a neighborhood that can’t support itself. Review these top concerns so you can avoid living in a low-quality neighborhood.
1. Homes rented
The number of homes rented may not necessarily mean anything currently.
However, that could change in the future.
If people are renting homes rather than owning, this could indicate the cost of homeownership in the area is too expensive or the area is not worth investing years of living in to.
Property not owned can also indicate residents in the area may not care about keeping it well maintained.
Which can lead to a higher risk of a neighborhood getting neglected, which can reflect poor property values.
2. Property maintenance
Observe the neighborhood collectively.
How well maintained is each property?
Are shrubs overgrowing?
Is the grass looking brown?
Are there out of control weeds?
These red flags can indicate homeowners do not care about keeping their property in good condition.
Property maintenance goes along with aesthetics – you want to be in a neighborhood that is attractive all around, not just your front lawn.
3. Communal areas
Not only will you spend time in your home, but also out and about.
You need to make sure communal areas like parks, pools, sports courts or bike trails are friendly and safe.
Like most parents, they like taking their children to the park, however, they expect it to be clean, child-proof and fun.
To evaluate the neighborhood’s quality of communal areas, check out these places.
Make sure to evaluate its accessibility, quality of work and safety to determine the overall condition.
4. Parked cars
Of course not every garage or driveway can accommodate everyone’s cars.
However, if parked cars seem to be flooding the streets, this can indicate frequent congestion and traffic delays.
Unless parking on the street is normal, be sure to consider this aspect.
Be aware if your neighborhood has strict parking policies so you or visitors don’t get towed or receive a ticket.
Although choosing the right neighborhood is an important decision, don’t overthink the situation.
Odds are in due time, the neighborhood will change whether you like it or not.
Whether that may be adding a new grocery store down the street or tearing down your favorite hidden getaway spot, everything changes eventually.
Researching the neighborhood prior to making an offer is strongly advised, however, don’t get scared away if it does not check off every box you have.
If the neighborhood hits your top wants and needs, it will satisfy you just fine.
Just prioritize what you are looking for and you can find the perfect neighborhood in no time.