If you’re thinking about moving to a new location, you’ll likely have your choice of several different neighborhoods—even if your destination city is an absolute must. Your choice in neighborhoods can have a massive impact on your lifestyle, your quality of life, and even the future value of your home, so it’s a decision you can’t afford to neglect.
The question is, what’s the best way to go about researching neighborhoods?
Broad Factors to Consider
Your neighborhood is going to affect you and your home in a few key ways:
- Location and proximity. A good neighborhood will grant you proximity to everything you need for a happy life; it will be close to your workplace, so your commute is short, close to a good school, so your kids can get a good education, and close to other amenities, like grocery stores and restaurants, to save time and improve convenience.
- Quality of life. Your neighborhood will also affect your quality of life, one way or another. The condition of the roads, sidewalks, and parks can affect your mood, and factors like crime rate can impact your feeling of security.
- Current and future home value. Of course, neighborhood quality also affects the value of your home. If you buy a housein an up-and-coming neighborhood, you may be able to cash in on greater property appreciation over the years.
Avenues of Research
You’ll spend most of your time researching neighborhoods online. There are many online resources you can tap to learn detailed statistics about various neighborhoods in your area, including historical crime rates, property values, and more.Neighborhood Scout is a good option here, but you can easily find more information with a basic Google search.
Aside from researching the neighborhood yourself online, spend time talking to people. Talk to your real estate agent to see what they think about this neighborhood and others, and talk to your prospective neighbors (if you can). What do these people like about this neighborhood? What do they wish was different?
Finally, you’ll want to spend some time physically present and active in the neighborhood, so you can see it for yourself. How quickly can you walk from your home to the nearest neighbor, or to the nearest store? Are the sidewalks and roads in good shape? At night, do you feel safe walking around? There are some subjective feelings here that online research simply can’t replicate.
What to Look For
What exactly should you be using as your basis for judgment? Every homebuyer will have slightly different goals and priorities, but these are some of the most important variables for most people to consider:
- Crime rates. One of the most important factors to consider isan area’s crime rate. Obviously, the lower the crime rate, the better. No neighborhood is completely exempt from crime, or completely safe, but some areas provide a better feeling of safety than others. Be particularly aware of violent crimes in each area.
- School quality and proximity. Next, you’ll want to consider the quality of your local school system, and how close you are to that school. If you have kids, the benefits are a better education, which is one of the most important things you can provide a child. But even if you don’t have kids, you should know that school system quality plays a major role in influencing home values.
- Workplace proximity. If you commute to work, you’ll want to choose a neighborhood that shortens your commute as much as possible. Reducing your traveling time per day has a cumulative effect that can save you hundreds, or thousands of hours in the long run.
- Property value and appeal. What are the homes in this neighborhood like? Are they relatively new? Are they aesthetically pleasing? Do you subjectively “like” them? What are they selling for, andwhat have they sold for in the past? These variables can tell you a lot about this neighborhood, and how it’s growing.
- Physical condition. Take a look at the physical condition of your surroundings, including not just the properties, but also the publicly maintained aspects; look at the streets, the streetlights, the sidewalks, the trees, and the parks (if applicable).
- Amenities and accessibility. Finally, consider the amenities available to you in this neighborhood. Are there parks or natural scenery to enjoy? Are there stores and other important facilities nearby?
You may need to sacrifice or compromise on some of these factors to get a home you’re happy with overall, but it’s still important to do your research so you know what you’re getting into. Armed with more facts and a better firsthand knowledge of the neighborhoods in a given area, you’ll be far more likely to make the right decision.