Picking The Right Neighborhood
by Carla Hill
Wednesday, June 27, 2012
Neighborhoods vary as widely as the people that live within them. Some have diligent HOA's with strict rules of appearance and conduct, while others are more lax ... sometimes to the detriment of home values.
It's important to research the neighborhood where you're considering purchasing a home. You want an area that fits your needs, personality, and social habits. These factors can influence your overall happiness just as much as that updated master bath or outdoor kitchen.
First, consider the safety of a neighborhood. In many big cities you'll find more affluent neighborhoods adjacent to large strips of rental apartments or low-income housing. Now, this doesn't always present a problem, but it can mean a trickle over of petty crimes, such as vandalism and theft. Check with the local authorities to see crime rates for the neighborhood.
You may also want to check the national sex offender database to see if any offenders live in your new neighborhood. Again, there may be no need to have concern, but having all the facts can help you make a more educated decision.
Next, check out the lines for local school districts. Some neighborhoods may surprise you by which district they're in and that's a big deal for some families. You may already have children in a certain school and don't wish for a move to displace them.
You'll also want to see how far away amenities are. Do you want to be able to walk to shops and restaurants? Walkability is really important to some buyers. Others are happy when grocery stores and gas stations are just around the corner.
In order to properly access a neighborhood, you should be sure to gather the facts. Your real estate should have data on the most recent sales (comparables) in the area. This will help you see the latest trends in pricing. Are home prices dropping? If so, by how much? Is there a large percentage of distressed homes for sale in the neighborhood? This could signal a larger trend and indicate further median home value reductions in the future.
You can also get information from people that already live in the area. Take a walk or drive around your prospective neighborhood. Take a good, hard look at the state of repair of the homes and how good yard upkeep is. If you see someone out in their yard, don't hesitate to go introduce yourself.
You could say something like, "Hi! My name is X and I'm thinking of buying in this neighborhood. What do you think of this area?" If you're lucky you'll find a talker that can give you all the down and dirty details, from the neighbor that plays his music a little too loud to struggles with a picky HOA. They may also be able to answer questions about the social aspects of the community. Is this a neighborhood that has block parties, neighborhood watch meetings, and is friendly and social? Is this a place where people mostly keep to themselves?
Picking the right neighborhood is just as important as picking the right house.
All Rights Reserved