How to Find Your Dream Neighborhood: Top 10 Things to Consider

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Real Estate

When searching for a new place to buy or rent, it’s important to not just focus on the property itself, but also the neighborhood it’s located in. After all, falling in love with a home in an area you can’t stand is a recipe for regret. Unlike returning a TV, you can’t easily change your mind after signing a lease or mortgage. That’s why it’s crucial to do your research before making any commitments. With so many factors to consider, it can be overwhelming to know where to start. However, there are 10 key elements that you should prioritize in your search for the perfect neighborhood.

10: Sidewalks

Sidewalks may not be the first thing that comes to mind when evaluating a neighborhood, but they can reveal a lot about the community. In addition to making it safer to walk around, sidewalks can also indicate the presence of nearby amenities, like parks and shops, that are within walking distance. This is especially important if you enjoy an active lifestyle or have pets or children that require regular outdoor exercise. Therefore, don’t overlook the value of sidewalks when assessing a potential neighborhood.

9: Taxes and Other Expenses

While it’s easy to focus solely on the cost of the property itself, it’s important to remember that living in a certain neighborhood can come with additional expenses that you need to factor into your decision. For instance, if you’re moving into a country club development or a condo, you may be responsible for costly homeowner’s association fees that come with various rules and regulations. Similarly, property taxes can be a significant expense that can fluctuate based on changes in the housing market. Make sure you’re aware of all the potential expenses associated with a neighborhood before committing to it.

When considering buying a foreclosure, it’s important to keep in mind that property taxes could increase and push your payments out of your budget when the market improves. This is something to consider before making a purchase.

8: Activities and Amenities


A young single person might want an active nightlife scene with bars or restaurants close by.
©iStockphoto.com/David Bukach

Regardless of your age, family situation or lifestyle, the amenities and activities in your new neighborhood are important. Families may want access to parks, swim/tennis communities, libraries, and extracurricular classes. Retired couples may prefer neighborhoods for active seniors, social clubs or proximity to family. Young singles with dogs may want a nearby dog park or bike trails, as well as a bustling nightlife scene. While compromises may need to be made, it’s important to ensure that the amenities that matter most to you are easily accessible.

7: Convenience

The convenience of your neighborhood can have an impact on your happiness and budget. Access to shopping centers and stores that you frequently visit is crucial in keeping stress levels low and minimizing gas expenses. Commute times to and from work should also be taken into consideration, especially in cities with high traffic. While you may find the perfect home in the perfect neighborhood, a long and expensive commute may not make it worth it.

6: Foreclosures and For Rent Signs

While a neighborhood with multiple foreclosures may seem like a buyer’s dream, it could be a sign of a financially unstable area. Property taxes and public services may suffer, and the value of neighboring houses may decrease. It’s important to do your research and make sure the neighborhood is financially stable before making a purchase.

5: Plans for the Future

Living in the present may be a positive attitude towards life, but it may not be the best way to choose the perfect neighborhood. This is because if you don’t check with your local planning office about the city’s future plans for the area, you may find out too late that you have bought a house in the middle of a new community college. The planning office can inform you about any future construction projects or road expansions that could affect the neighborhood. You may believe that a neighborhood is perfect because it’s charming, quiet and private with many mature trees, but you may find out that a developer is clearing the trees behind the house you want to build another subdivision.

Even if your property is not directly affected, the city’s plans may significantly impact the ambiance and culture that made you fall in love with the area. It’s essential to check with your development or homeowner’s association about future houses in your area. If you love the fact that a house is on a corner lot without another home on one side, you’ll want to know about the plans to expand that side of the development with 50 additional homes. It’s likely that this will affect your decision.

4: Unpleasant Sounds and Smells

One reason it’s crucial to visit a neighborhood at different times of the day before making a decision is to listen to and smell what’s going on there. An area may seem perfect on paper, but when you visit, you may realize that the line of trees in the backyard actually hides a major road. Train tracks, local restaurants and bars, air traffic, and medical centers all create noise that may be disturbing. Annoying sounds will never go away, and even if you get used to them, it’s a risk. Moreover, these noises will make it harder to sell when you decide to leave. Other unwanted noises could include your neighbors. Whether it’s a couple who fights all the time, a family with three large dogs, or children screaming, you’ll want to know about these noises before making your decision. If you visit somewhere during your lunch break, it may seem quiet only because the children are at school and the adults are at work. Visiting at least three different times of the day will give you a better idea of what to expect. And while you’re listening, don’t forget to take a good sniff of the outside air as well. Sewage problems, a stagnant lake, or even the corner BBQ joint can create unpleasant odors that are unlikely to go away.

3: Low Crime Rate

It is easy to find out the crime rate of a new neighborhood and compare it to your current one or others in the area. Numerous websites have already done the investigative work for you, or your real estate agent can provide this information. If you are deciding between two neighborhoods, knowing which one has a better crime rate can make your decision easier. If you love a neighborhood but find out it has a questionable crime rate, you can speak to the local police office for more details. It may be that only a small area of the ZIP code is a magnet for crime, and your neighborhood is perfectly safe. However, when it is time to sell, keep in mind that potential buyers will have looked up the crime rate as well, which may deter them from buying your home without the whole story.

2: Good Schools

The quality of public and private schools, from kindergarten to high school, can greatly affect the value of a home. Good schools should be a priority on anyone’s list, even if you do not have children. If you are renting and do not have children, good schools may add unnecessary cost to your rent. If you have children, you should do more research than simply looking up the school zone on a website or seeking advice from your real estate agent. Talk to your neighbors or attend a PTA meeting and take advantage of school tours. Don’t forget to ask about sports, after-school activities, and academics.

1: Culture

Finding your dream neighborhood is not just about statistics and information. It is about how that place makes you feel. Before you do any research, ask yourself if you can see yourself living there. If you are looking for a hip urban area, you won’t be happy in a quiet, family-oriented neighborhood. You may have to compromise on some of your criteria, such as living in an area with an active nightlife, giving up convenience, or being surrounded by nature. The bottom line is that you will not be happy in a neighborhood that does not fit your lifestyle. Find the right neighborhood culture first, and the other pieces will fall into place.

Further Details

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Sources

  • Grace, Suzanne. “Finding the Perfect Neighborhood.” Relocation.com. Feb. 13, 2008. (Feb. 13, 2011)http://www.relocation.com/library/real_estate_guide/buyer_guide/find_neighborhood.html
  • Gray, Liz. “Selecting a Neighborhood.” HGTV’s Frontdoor. Feb. 25, 2008. (Feb. 13, 2011)http://www.frontdoor.com/Buy/How-To-Choose-A-Neighborhood/1162
  • Keen, Judy. “No Sidewalks in My Front Yard.” USA Today. June 17, 2007. (Feb. 23, 2011)http://www.usatoday.com/news/nation/2007-06-17-sidewalks_N.htm
  • Levin, Heather. “Assessing a Neighborhood Before You Buy.” USNews.com. Jan. 28, 2011. (Feb. 13, 2011)http://money.usnews.com/money/blogs/my-money/2011/01/28/how-to-analyze-a-neighborhood-before-you-buy
  • Scher, Carol & Les. “Locating & Purchasing Your Property in the Rural Area.” Dearborn Trade Publishing. 2000. (Feb. 23, 2011)

FAQ

1. What amenities are available in the area?

When looking for your dream neighborhood, it is important to consider what amenities are available in the area. This could include parks, shopping centers, restaurants, and entertainment venues. If you enjoy spending time outdoors, look for neighborhoods with plenty of green space and outdoor activities. If you prefer a more urban environment, look for neighborhoods with a variety of shops and restaurants within walking distance.

2. What is the crime rate in the area?

No one wants to live in an unsafe neighborhood. When researching potential neighborhoods, be sure to look up the crime rate. You can also reach out to local law enforcement for more information about the safety of the area.

3. What are the schools like?

If you have children or plan on having children in the future, it is important to consider the quality of the local schools. Research the schools in the area and look at their ratings and reviews. You can also reach out to the school district for more information.

4. What is the cost of living in the area?

The cost of living can vary greatly from neighborhood to neighborhood. Take a look at the cost of housing, utilities, and other expenses in the area to see if it fits within your budget.

5. What is the commute like?

If you work outside the home, the commute to and from work can be a major factor in your decision. Consider how long it will take you to get to work and if there are any public transportation options available. You may also want to take a test drive during rush hour to see what the traffic is like.

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