Regardless if you are going to be buying your own place or renting a property, moving to a new home belongs to the group of big decisions that you make only a handful of times in your life. While the moving experience can be made simple, I do not know anyone who wants to do it often!
That is why choosing the right neighbourhood, to call home for a long period of time (perhaps the rest of your life), requires a lot of research before you reach the final verdict about the neighbourhood you choose. Below are several things to consider about a neighbourhood when buying a home…how many of these items are on your home buying list?
Safety First, Always!
Most buyers agree that theirs and their loved one’s safety should always be top priority! While no area is completely safe, some areas provide better protection and have less crime than others. Knowing which areas in your community are low and high risk can save you a lot of angst and help keep your family relatively safe and secure.
Going to the local police station to ask about the crime rate in the area and visiting neighbourhoods on several occasions during different times of the day should give you a fairly accurate site picture of the safety level in that area. Also, bear in mind that in some areas residents organize their own neighbourhood watch programs to increase the safety of those areas
Pay Attention to Other Homes
When choosing a new place to settle down, you should always pay special attention to the houses around the one you are considering to purchase. If there are several empty homes on the street it might be a good idea to go door-to-door and ask current homeowners, why there are so many vacancies.
Also, if there are patches of bare land around your dream home, inquire about the future plans with that land. It would be terrible to buy a house only to see that a huge apartment complex begins to emerge in front of your eyes shortly after you purchase the property. Do your homework and find out all the details. The local council is a great starting point for your investigations.
In fancier residential areas it is hard to imagine something like this occurring, but it can and does happen. When your money is at stake, leave nothing to chance, and no stone left unturned.
In some areas, access to affordable public transportation is critical to keep commute times reasonable and allow quick access to shopping, entertainment, and other key hubs in and around the area being considered. Also, if going green appeals to you, then living near public transportation might be a consideration worth investing in.
Schools and Education
Buyers with children want to live in areas with decent schools. It is that simple. Fortunately, homes in good school districts are typically sought after which helps keep home prices stable in those areas. A few of the things you should consider when comparing neighbourhood schools are:
- School Rating – Parents often provide their insights through various internet sites. What better way to find out about a school than to read what parents with children attending those schools think.
- Busing – Some areas provide buses to get kids to/from school. If this is important to you, check out the routes, average time spent on the bus, pickup/drop off points, and even the district driver hiring practices.
- Walk-ability – Can your kids walk to/from school from the home you are thinking about buying? Do they have to cross busy roads? Are there crosswalks, sidewalks, and crossing guards?
- Teacher-to-Student Ratio – Typically, the less students per class, the more individual attention your children will get. In some areas, parents opt for private schools to ensure these ratios are lower than average.
- Test Scores – Are the county, state, and national test scores above or below the standard?
- Special/Gifted Programs – Does the school offer programs your kids may need or desire?
- Family/Student Aid – For families that need assistance, does the school offer the necessary aid?
- Bi-Lingual Support – For some families, this is certainly a consideration when looking at schools in particular communities.
Do your homework and consider all the important (to you) features the various schools in your search area have. Once you know which schools you want your kids to attend, the ensuing home search is often fairly quick and easy.
Walking and Cycling Areas
For some active consumers, it is all about the neighbourhood amenities and community details. Among those important details are bike lanes and walking areas. Enjoying the outdoors in a familiar setting, and getting in some much needed exercise, are worthy considerations as buyers and investors start searching for homes.
In newer communities, many subdivision and neighbourhood builders understand that by building walking and/or cycling areas into the infrastructure they are not only promoting a healthier life-style but also making those neighbourhoods’ more attractive to new residents. Whether they are using the trails or paths for exercise or enjoyment, some buyers will be swayed by their availability.
Let’s face it, not many buyers want to live in an ugly neighbourhood or home. When we take pride in our areas, it shows we care about the community. Conversely, when there are shabby looking houses and yards and the curb appeal is low, it is often symptomatic of other issues, such as higher crime rates and lower safety indexes.
When the neighbourhood is visually pleasing, new buyers can easily get a sense of belonging as well as a projection that the existing homeowners are a tight knit and/or cohesive group. Besides, when the homes all look well groomed, it can have a positive impact on prices which is great for resale value. Be excited about the homes and areas you are visiting, but also have a critical eye, being sure to pay attention to the neighbourhood aesthetics.
Proximity of Vital Services
Families often consider neighbourhood’s that either have basic services or are close to vital community services. Living near a police station, fire station, and hospitals/quick care facilities can save your life or the life of a family member in an emergency. In addition to vital resources, some new owners insist on living near other service resources in-case the need arises.
Area Design Restrictions
Love them or hate them, Design Controls can play a big part in whether or not buyers want to live in a particular neighbourhood. Some like the thought of homeowners having to keep their yards and shrubbery trimmed, similar fences, mailboxes, and sheds, structured paint and roof styles, lack of extracurricular vehicles/vessels being visible, and a host of other things that many homeowner associations ensure are maintained or not abused.
Others shy away from having that much control and prefer to do what they feel is best for their home while respecting their neighbours right to do the same. Whatever your preference, knowing which neighbourhood’s enforce design restrictions as well as other requirements, and which ones have none in place will help make your home purchase decision that much simpler.
While most consumers are fine with paying their share of rates, they do not want to pay more than is necessary. That holds especially true for real estate purchases. Contact your local council and find out what the home you are considering has an assessed value of. That will determine the property rates of the home over the next 1 to 3 years (depending on your location). If in doubt, check with your local real estate agent who can get the information for you.
I do not know anyone who wants to live in an area where there are significantly loud noises. Whether it is a steady buzz from traffic, near busy commercial centres, or something else, the presence of noise is often a big turnoff for buyers. If you find the noise level is not going to lessen, and will be too uncomfortable to deal with on a continual basis, it may be best to walk away before you commit to the neighbourhood and home.
Secondary Buyer Considerations
Everyone has their own set of priorities and must haves when starting their home search. While many may consider the items below secondary buyer considerations, you may see them as priority items when you begin looking at the right neighbourhood’s to live in:
- Proximity to religious facilities
- Availability of specific on-site amenities
- Highway access
- Closeness to entertainment and shopping venues
- Is it an up-and-coming community
- Commute time to work and schools
- Parks and recreation
- The neighbours
- Demographic composition
As you can see, spotting the right neighbourhood is a multi-layered and demanding process. You might like three or four features of an area, but disapprove of some others. Probably the best way to make the final choice is by listing pros and cons for the homes and the neighbourhood’s you are thinking about and then simply calculating the benefits and disadvantages. Whatever you choose, always contribute to the community you live in and do everything you can to keep your home as valuable as it was when you moved into it.