When you hear the word neighborhood, a lot of different neighborhoods could come to mind. So, when buying your new home, how do you choose the right neighborhood for you?
To pick the right neighborhood for you, you’ll need to understand what you want, how you want it and notice if that area provides the conveniences, shopping, ambiance, vistas, style and price that goes with your needs.
“It’s funny cause when I tell some of my clients the neighborhood that I live in, they think it’s a terrible neighborhood. But I love where I live,” says Rebekah Eaton, associate broker at RealtySouth-MB-Crestline in Gardendale, Ala.
Everyone has a vision of what they think the perfect neighborhood would be. Here are some things to investigate before choosing where you want to buy a house:
Is It Safe?
The safety of a neighborhood can be a big aspect of picking the perfect place to buy a house. But sometimes, rumors and misperceptions can give a safe area a bad reputation.
“I had a client who was really worried about buying a house one neighborhood over from the one he lived in now,” Eaton explains. “I got him to call the police station in his own neighborhood and the one in the other area. He found out the other one was safer than the one he lived in. He was just listening to friends who didn’t have the right data.”
So, her tip is to directly call the police station. They have data about muggings, break-ins, and all those things that might scare you.
“There will always be crime. But get the facts first of what you might be getting into,” she says.
Also, some quick searches on the internet can go a long way toward figuring how safe a neighborhood actually is.
How Friendly Is The Area?
Do you like to keep to yourself when you get home at the end of the day, or would you love a neighborhood where people gather in each other’s backyards for cocktails and conversation?
In Eaton’s neighborhood, the builders are cultivating a strong neighborhood culture by throwing block parties that they advertise it to the public.
“People who come to the parties can see that this neighborhood is not like the other ones. I feel like neighborhoods like mine are where people watch out for each other,” she said. “People plant flowers and make the community feel as one.”
Check if neighborhoods appear on social media sites to see if they have a litany of stuff going on. If these areas are inviting to outsiders, then hopefully they will be very friendly to those living there.
Also when touring homes, if you see someone mowing their lawn or pruning the flowers, go up to them and have a conversation about the neighborhood. If they don’t have good things to say, it may not be the neighborhood for you.
How Affordable Is The Neighborhood?
Because each neighborhood has its pros and cons, chances are that identical homes in different neighborhoods could have different costs.
Before getting your heart set on a specific area, check your finances and find a target monthly payment. Use this as a baseline when shopping for the right home. While you may not be as close to nearby schools as you’d like for your children, you could end up saving a decent amount each month. These savings begin to add up after time.
Also, be sure to check what current rates are before figuring out your target monthly payment. Rates can change every day, so staying up to date will make the process easier.
What’s The Neighborhood Like At Night?
So you toured your dream house – but it was in the middle of the afternoon on a Saturday. There probably wasn’t much going on. Chances are that Friday nights, Monday mornings and other times during the week are going to be a little bit different.
Most real estate agents will tell you to drive around at three different times of the week to get a feel for what is happening. Check out the flow of traffic, the number of kids heading off to school, or even the people talking in their lawns to each after a long week.
Are You Too Far Away From Shopping?
The subdivision you have fallen in love with is huge. It feels like a mini-city, and it takes like 15 minutes to actually drive out of its winding streets. However, the closest store to buy milk and bread is another 10 minutes from there. So, just think about if you really want to spend 25 minutes for a quick trip to the store to get necessities and then spend another 25 minutes coming back. Some people prefer being closer to stores, shopping and restaurants.
Others might prefer more privacy and country-like settings. Also remember that if you have small kids now, they will be growing up. How far will you be traveling to take them to football practice or dance classes?
Wherever you decide to purchase a house, just remember to pay attention to all the sounds, sights and even smells as you tour the area. If you think the smells wafting from the barbecue restaurant down the street is nice, consider that you may get tired of it after years of living in your home.