Everyone has different tastes when it comes to the type of house they want to live in. But how important is your neighborhood in the scheme of things when you buy a home?
Real estate agents say it is everything. Remember – location, location, location. That has been the motto of real estate experts for years. Where your dream house is located can mean the difference between feeling safe or not, or living a peaceful existence or being in the middle of crazy town. There are so many things to figure out about your wants, needs and lifestyle before ever choosing a neighborhood or a house.
“It all depends on what kind of environment you want and the conveniences you desire around you,” says Teresa Sterna, real estate broker at Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices KoenigRubloff Realty Group in Northbrook, Ill. “Statistics show us that people usually only move within a 6-mile radius from where they are. That limits an area and the number of neighborhoods to choose from.”
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So, she suggests to her clients to really understand what amenities they want in their neighborhoods. For instance, if they are a young family or plan on having kids, they should check out the school system.
“You need to understand the financial situation of the school district, whether they have particular programs such as music or art, and what the safety issue may be in the schools,” she says.
Another aspect to think about is whether or not you want to be in a neighborhood because of a particular ethnic group or like-minded people. For instance, Sterna came to America in 1971 from Poland.
“In the beginning when my language was limited, I wanted to be surrounded by people who spoke my language and I would have access to services in Polish so I could understand them better,” she says.
Picking a neighborhood with the environment you want can also make life easier and happier, Sterna says. If you want the hustle, bustle of city life with lots of restaurants and entertainment venues outside your door step, then a city condo could be perfect. But if you have a young family, the suburbs with good schools and lots of parks might be what you are looking for.
But safety should be first for everyone, she says.
There are several websites that help potential homebuyers figure out if the neighborhood they are considering is safe. They include:
CityData – Profiles of all cities in the United States along with other data.
CrimeReports – Online crime mapping.
NeighborhoodScout – School ratings, appreciation rates and crime rates.
Melody Carroll, president, owner and broker at Carroll Real Estate in Iowa City, Iowa, says that she first asks her clients where they work and how close do they want to live to their workplace.
“I want to find out too where their spouse or roommate works, too, and what are the individual needs of their extended family, especially if they have children,” she says. “I also recommend that they go visit schools in their preferred neighborhoods if they have children. You can also get online and check out schools and their test results.”
If the client is from the area, she asks them questions such as where they bank, buy groceries or shop for other things. Do they have favorite restaurants that they frequent? Do they use the trails and parks?
“That’s where I begin to help them find the right neighborhood. But you have to be aware that there may be neighborhoods where there are just older adults. Someone may want a neighborhood full of kids,” she says.
Looking at the noise factor can be very important for some people. You need to visit that neighborhood at different times of day.
“You might find a whole different atmosphere when it’s nighttime,” she says.
If you found your dream house but noisy jets from the nearby airport are flying over it all day long, it might not be so perfect. And what about other noise factors? Does the deck face the interstate? Is there a grade school playground next door? Some people say they could handle the noise because they love the house so much. But once they get in the house for a few years, they realize it wasn’t such a good idea because they feel trapped in their house because it’s too noisy to sit outside, Carroll says.
“Little things can tell you if it is a good neighborhood, especially if it is safe,” she adds. “Do people leave things in their yards because they don’t have the fear it will be taken? There will be little clues like that.”
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Examine the streets around the home you think you want to buy. Is the curb appeal good down the street? Do homeowners give a lot of attention to their homes? Do people seem friendly?
“You also don’t want to purchase the most expensive house in the neighborhood,” Carroll says. “If you buy the cheapest home in the most expensive neighborhood and make a few minor changes, it could change that home into something special for you and bring in more money when you sell it.”