It’s exciting to start the process of buying a home – from touring potential properties to envisioning your life inside each home, every step is a new adventure! However, many buyers get so excited about the house they’ve fallen in love with that they don’t look beyond the house to the neighborhood where they soon may be living.
It’s important to remember that you are not just buying a house … you’re buying a neighborhood.
How do you know you’re buying in a neighborhood that is right for you? It’s easy when you keep five things in mind:
1. The time of day when you first lay eyes on a prospective house can affect your impression of the neighborhood. Make sure you visit at various hours throughout the day, and on both the weekdays and the weekends. What may seem a very safe neighborhood during the day can drastically once it’s dark outside. The same can be said for neighborhood traffic flow, which can change dramatically depending on the time of day.
2. Neighborhood choice can be a pocketbook issue, and not just because of house prices and property taxes. Commuting costs – both in time and money – are critical. While you’re paying attention to home prices and subsequent mortgage payments, remember to calculate the actual cost of a commute. You may find the savings you envision based on a home’s lower price isn’t actually a savings at all.
3. Neighbors can be a great resource. Introduce yourself to your prospective neighbors and get their impressions of the neighborhood. Doing your research includes getting to know the neighbors. Ask them what they love about their neighborhood, and what concerns them. If you’re looking at a condo, and there is a condo association which manages the complex, ask neighbors who live there how effective the association is.
4. The Internet can be a boon for researching the nitty-gritty. Check out websites like Moving.com that look at factors such as appreciation rates, neighborhood amenities, commute times, and crime statistics.
5. Some neighborhood characteristics don’t fit neatly into numerical categories or scores. Another website worth taking a look at is NabeWise.com, which looks at 65 "quality of life" characteristics. Want to be near a farmers market, public transit or nightlife? Simply complete the check-list and the site does the search for you.
Remember – house hunting isn’t just about finding the perfect floor plan and the best back yard for relaxing and entertaining. It’s also about finding a neighborhood that suits you.