How to choose a Neighborhood for Your Home Search

When you buy a home, you aren’t just looking at a property. You are also considering the neighborhood where you’ll be living. This includes what other homes are in the area, how close it is to businesses and other factors that will either make the home more attractive or deter you.

What to Consider

Before you commit to a house or even look at homes in a neighborhood, it’s a good idea to do your own investigation or ask your realtor questions about the area.

Important Factors

  • Property values in the area
  • Crime rate
  • Plans for growth
  • Walkability
  • Traffic
  • Reputation of schools
  • Location compared to employment, hospitals, parks, public transportation, major highways, airports, prisons and cultural activities

Some of these factors will weigh heavier in your decision than others, but you have to consider not only what’s important today but for the future as well. For example, you may be a single person looking for a quiet neighborhood or a young couple interested in suburbia. In five or ten years, you may have kids and the quality of schools will be important even though it isn’t a major factor today.

Searching for the Right Neighborhood

If you are a first-time buyer with limited resources or moving to a new area you aren’t familiar with, you will need to do some research to find the right neighborhood. Here are some tips to help you learn about the different areas in your target location.

  • Look for neighborhoods primed for growth – these communities are growing with young adults and families moving in and near other desirable, but more expensive locations
  • Find out about projects slated to begin in the near future, such as builders developing land into subdivisions or transit expansion
  • Ask your real estate agent about demand for homes in the area and how long a house sits on the market before selling – popular locations don’t have homes on the market for weeks and months
  • Consider purchasing an older home or condo in a desirable neighborhood if you can’t afford the price of single-family homes

How to Learn about the Neighborhoods

Learning about a neighborhood isn’t a complicated task, but it does require some time. You can ask your real estate agent, but don’t rely solely on their information, especially if you are looking at more than one neighborhood.

Go online and check out Zillow and other sites to find out about crime and other data in the neighborhood. You can also use city-data.com to learn information about a city.

Find out if your desired neighborhood has an association and a community officer. They can tell you details about the area, including the crime rate.

The best way to learn about an area is by visiting it in person. Make more than one trip and just spend time watching what goes on. While many people visit during the day, they miss out on a lot in the evenings. You’ll learn more if you stop by after five or on the weekends. Notice if more traffic is seen along the streets or how heavy the foot traffic is.

Visit the nearby parks and see how many families spend time there. If you’re single, check out the local coffee shop or restaurant to see who spends time there.

Spend time in the nearest business district where you want to live. Notice the buildings to see if they are all occupied or if there are vacancies. Vacant buildings indicate that business isn’t booming in the area, and may show that the neighborhoods are in decline.

Pay attention to the cleanliness of the area and the state of the buildings to see if they are in good shape or in disrepair. Find out about the trends in the area. Sometimes you can find a neighborhood that doesn’t look great but is up and coming. It may have been a depressed neighborhood that has had money pumped into it and is just beginning to see the results. An area like this is a great investment for your money because home values will increase.

If you are looking to buy in an area you aren’t familiar with, you want to take some time to learn about it and ensure you’re making a smart decision. Look at it from a practical point of view as well as a personal one. You want a place where your home will increase its value and one that will make you feel safe and happy.