Everyone has a unique image of their neighborhood. Define that image so that your time will be spent on just picking the house. Here are a few of the most commonly researched neighborhood traits:
- School district – Education is important. Home is home, but it’s also an investment. A school district’s performance impacts housing prices, regardless of whether you have children. Besides, the bulk of your property taxes goes to maintaining schools.
- Commute – The average travel time to work in the United States is 25.4 minutes, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. What is your ideal commute? Worse-case commute? Would you consider public transportation? If so, is there a mode of transportation, like rail, nearby?
- Shopping and restaurants – Don’t limit this to just malls with brand names or national restaurant chains. Are there convenience stores? Walkable downtown areas with night life?
- Parks and recreation – Are there places to go running or cycling? Dog parks (your pets need to socialize as well)? Rock-climbing gym? You can’t sit in front of your TV or play games on your smartphone all day.
- Mature, tree-lined sidewalks or newer developments with or without associations? – Mature neighborhoods probably won’t change, except for the rare razing and constructing of a new home on the lot. On the flip side, are there more developments scheduled to be built soon, which might affect roads, nature, schools and traffic?
- Crime – Safety is important. Call the local police department.
- Walk It!
It’s great to have the entire housing inventory in the palm of your hand, using an app like the Realtor.com app, but you can’t experience an area without physically visiting and feeling the place out. There may be sections of the neighborhood that you would prefer over others. Prove to yourself that the hype you’re reading online and hearing from your friends about that up-and-coming neighborhood is true. And when you get there, park your car and walk. Do this at different points of the day, on different days.
When you have finally decided where to call home, contact your Realtor and start touring homes. Good hunting!