If you’re planning to buy a home this year, you have a lot to think about. While searching for a home that fits your family, your lifestyle, your tastes, and your budget, you also need to consider the neighborhood in which that home will reside. If you find a property that has everything you want but is located in a neighborhood that isn’t a good match for you, you may end up wishing you’d paid more attention to your home’s broader surroundings before making the purchase.
Below are some questions to ask yourself and aspects of a neighborhood to consider before buying any new home. While some of these are easily researched online, others require you to spend some time in the area to get the information you’ll need to make a fully informed choice. Once you’ve determined your priorities, done all of the remote investigation that you can, and whittled down your list of potential neighborhoods, visit those on your short list for an up-close and in-depth look.
Will I have children in this home? If you already have kids, this obviously doesn’t require much thought. If you don’t have children right now, however, consider the likelihood of that changing before you change homes. With children, aspects such as schools, parks, and traffic become much more important. Think about how long you plan to stay in the home and how your family structure might change over that time-frame.
What kind of commute am I willing to make? How do you plan to get where you need to go on a daily basis? If you’ll primarily be driving, then be aware of the drive time and traffic you’ll encounter. If you prefer to walk or bike, are there safe and convenient paths to work, school, or wherever else you’ll be going on a regular basis? Is public transportation available? Consider both the time and the cost involved in getting around every day.
What kind of neighborhood culture suits me? What kind of neighborhood feels like home to you? Do you love to be in the middle of the action with shopping, restaurants, and nightlife nearby? Do you want your home to be a secluded oasis? Do you want to live in a close-knit community among families who have kids around the same age as your own? Take a look at the people, places, and things in the neighborhood, and consider how well they fit your lifestyle.
- Crime statistics – You can find crime data online at sites such as http://www.mylocalcrime.com/.
- Schools – The Nebraska Department of Education publishes reports on all Nebraska schools, and sites such as GreatSchools provide nationwide school information.
- Transportation – The Walk Score provides information on how easy it is to navigate any neighborhood in the country on foot, by bike, and on public transportation.
- Local amenities
- Property taxes – This factor needs to be weighed against your desire for local public amenities, which are often funded by property taxes.
- Homeowners associations – If the neighborhood has a homeowners association, it’s important to understand all associated fees and rules before you buy.
- Plans for future development in the area – A quiet neighborhood doesn’t always stay that way. If features like seclusion, a great view, or little traffic are important to you, it’s equally important to know how those things may change in the near future.
Closely observe your impressions of the neighborhood – the sights, sounds, and smells. Actually getting into the neighborhood and observing it at different times of day is the only way of getting this specific information. For example,
- Is there a lot of road noise during certain times of day?
- Does a neighbor’s dog bark all day while its owners are away?
- Does a nearby restaurant fill the area with the smell of its food (whether good or bad) during dinnertime?
- Do the roads come to a standstill during rush hour?
- Can you see the stars at night?
- Do neighbors come outside and socialize with each other? Do their kids play outside?
Pay attention to the little things that are important to you. Picture yourself living in the environment and what your day-to-day life would be like there. Finally, try talking with the neighbors. Ask them for their impressions of the neighborhood. You’ll get to know more about the area as well as the people in it. The more information you have, the more confident you can feel about your choice.