Before you can find the right neighborhood, you have to make a list of what to look for. And that list is individual to you and your family. It may not be possible to get everything on your list, and you may have to compromise.
Step 1 – Ask yourself the following questions:
What type of home do you want?
Do you want a single-family home, townhouse or apartment? Are you interested in a co-op or condo?
If you work, what’s the longest distance you are willing to commute?
Do you own a car? If not, would you buy one if that were the only way to get to work? Do you want to take mass transit, and if so, is there a line to get you where you want to go? Is your job within walking distance of the neighborhood you are interested in?
Do you have kids or plan to have kids during your time in the house?
When looking at a community, research the school system. You can’t go wrong living in a community with good schools as this always adds to property values. Also if you have or hope to have kids, you will want a neighborhood with parks.
Do you want to live in a development of new construction or do you prefer homes with a more historic look and feel?
There are pros and cons to both. Older neighborhoods generally have more character, but may have infrastructure issues. Newer neighborhoods have modern features, but are generally built further away from the center of town.
Is it important to you to be within walking distance of the town?
Do you want to be able to do your shopping or go to restaurants on foot?
Or would a home within driving distance be okay?
Think about what your current community is missing and what you don’t want in your new neighborhood.
Maybe you want to be able to sit by the water, but your current home is not near the water. Or perhaps you want to be able to drive through a Starbucks on your way to work but you don’t have a drive through coffee shop near you now. You also know that you go to bed early and need quiet. So choosing a college town or a big city apartment with noisy streets would not work for you.
Step 2 – Take the answers to the above questions and narrow down the neighborhoods.
If you are changing neighborhoods but staying in the same city you will probably already have answers to many of the questions. If you are changing cities, it will take more work.
Step 3 – Once you’ve made a list of neighborhoods, start detailing the specifics.
Reach out to local realtors for recommendations and put together all of the information you can gather. This should include specifics at to what the area has to offer culturally, public and private school information, issues related to crime in the area, parks and recreation availability, and rules and regulations regarding construction approvals.
Step 4 – Visit the neighborhoods that are on your list.
- Note what you see. Do you feel good driving the streets? Do the houses look pretty? Would you be proud to show the area to friends and family? Does the town have shops and restaurants that you could see yourself frequenting?
- Picture yourself in the neighborhood. If you can see yourself in the neighborhood driving through the Starbucks or taking your dog to that dogpark, it will help to make a decision.
- Visit the schools, even if you don’t have kids yet. Seeing for yourself the conditions of the schools will tell you a lot about the emphasis the community puts on education.
- Be on the lookout for signs of trouble. Are there a lot of “for rent” signs in neighborhood stores? Is there graffiti or broken windows on or in buildings?
- Note what you hear. Do you hear birds chirping? Or trucks screaming down the highway? Is it quiet? Or full of traffic noises?
- Talk to people – potential neighbors or people you meet in the local restaurant. Ask them questions about the neighborhood.
- Note what you smell. Hopefully nothing more than fragrant flowers.