Choosing a Neighborhood

When Choosing a Neighborhood, It Pays To Do Your Homework

As a prospective homeowner, you’ve probably put forth a lot of time and energy into deciding on the type of home in which you wish to settle down. However, remember, the decision concerning the kind of neighborhood you will call home is equally important.

Depending on your lifestyle, desires, and needs — not to mention, your budget — you can evaluate prospective neighborhoods accurately if you follow a few simple guidelines. To do it right, though, requires time and a bit of diligence. But, in the end, it will pay big dividends, rewarding you with a sense of fulfillment and peace of mind. In addition, it can be financially rewarding to have chosen the right neighborhood, especially when it comes time to sell your home.

Most home shoppers already have a pretty good idea of the identity they would like to see their home neighborhood project. Taking a leisurely drive through the town or city in which you want to live will give you an idea of the different styles of neighborhoods it has to offer.

Once you’ve narrowed down your search to a particular district, and then, to a handful of different neighborhoods, a good place to start the process of elimination is a real estate agent. A good real estate professional will be able to provide you with helpful statistics regarding crime rates, quality of schools, taxes, demographics, economic condition, job growth potential, and home sales within the prospective community.

Homebuyers with families will be particularly interested in school data, and the availability of churches in the area.

One thing that many home searchers often overlook (much to their chagrin) is the reality of change. Just because that quaint three-bedroom dream house you’ve got your eye on is situated next to a wooded empty parcel of land – which may provide a sense of peaceful seclusion – doesn’t guarantee that somebody will not slap some dreadfully noisy retail establishment on the vacant lot in the near future.

A good way to guard against this situation is to visit the city’s zoning/planning offices. By doing so you can find out if any large retail or road construction projects are in the planning stages. Often for large projects, certain documents need to be filed years in advance of commencement.

After taking these steps, you most likely have narrowed down your target search to a couple of neighborhoods. So, now is a good time to get down to determining the real character of the final candidates for your residence. This will require some legwork and a bit of socializing, but it will be well worth it.

Here are some suggestions:

  • Visit the prospective neighborhoods at different times of day and night, driving in from different directions. Carefully observe the overall condition of the surrounding community as well as the neighborhood in question – signs of graffiti, unkempt houses, and litter in the streets are red flags, to say the least.
  • Observe the overall condition of surrounding homes – are they tidy, well-maintained, and with lawns it nice condition?
  • Chat with some of the residents to get a true feel for the quality of life you can expect there – after all, nobody knows the neighborhood better than the people who have lived there a while.
  • If public transportation is important to you, ask residents about accessibility to it.
  • Especially if you have kids, try visiting one or two schools in the immediate area.
  • Shop in some of the local retail stores or shops.
  • Check out a local newspaper or two – often these publications will help to give you a sense of the flavor of the local community.
  • Try getting acquainted with some of the locals by visiting a local church or two.
  • Visit the local park(s) to mix with some of the area residents.
  •  For people who plan on driving to work each day, test out the commute during rush hour, from the neighborhood in question. A particularly frustrating commute may be reason enough to reject buying a home there.

Seek out profit potential:

Sooner or later, if you’re like most homeowners, you’ll be selling your beloved home someday. With that in mind, you’ll want to make doubly sure you do a good job of evaluating the profit potential of the home you settle on. Therefore, one of the most important considerations in evaluating a new neighborhood is the resale potential of the homes there. In particular, consider newer neighborhoods which sit on the fringe of desirable, well-established neighborhoods – the ones which experienced nice price gains during in recent times.

These new neighborhoods will benefit from this proximity and experience nice price run-ups as well. In addition, look for:

  • A relatively short time frame for homes to be on the market before being sold.
  • A decrease in the number of renters.
  • A high percentage of owner-occupants.
  • An increase in the number of new residents from other areas of the city or from out-of-town.
  • Home sales which had multiple offers.
  • Remodeling activity which is prevalent.
  • Proximity to a variety of shops and stores.
  • Good public facilities.
  • Convenient commuting options to metropolitan areas.

Above all, you want your new neighborhood to be the type where property values, at the very least, remain stable. Keep in mind that those kinds of neighborhoods are those with well-defined identities – something tangible or even intangible that tends to hold the community together, such as an excellent park, or a reputation for having a lot of residents who work in related professions.

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