Researching a Neighborhood

If houses are like spouses, a neighborhood is like the extended family and you’ll never love a house if you don’t like your neighborhood. So how do you choose the right community?

First of all, figure out what you’re looking for, do research and find a neighborhood that fits your description. Before you start your search, think about what you’re really looking for in a new neighborhood. Remember, you will have to make compromises, so put the “must-haves” at the top and the “would- like-to-haves” at the bottom.

Here are some helpful things to consider: Do you have children or are you planning to have children anytime soon? Parents know that the first thing to do when looking at a neighborhood is to research the school system. Even if you’re single, living in an area with a much sought-after school system raises your property value. If you have kids, you’ll also want to live close to parks and community centers.

What type of home do you want? Are you interested in a single-family home, condo or high rise apartment? How far are you willing to commute to work? Do you want to be in a historic neighborhood or a new development? You will also want to determine what is your current community lacking? If you’re currently landlocked, but have always wanted to live in the country, put that at the top of your list. Do you want to be able to walk to local shops, restaurants and bars? Or would you be willing to drive to nearby businesses?

Insider tips on moving to a new house

From Visually.

With your area of the city in mind, continue researching interesting neighborhoods online, ask local real estate agents for recommendations and compile the background information on the areas, including:

  • School information: Look into the local public and private elementary, junior and high schools, as well as daycare programs.
  • Crime statistics: Most real estate sites have statistics that tell you how the zip code’s crime rates measure up to the national average. If you want specifics, call the local police station.
  • Parks and recreation: How far is it to the closest park or recreation center? Where are the local bike paths?
  • Neighborhood associations: Does the community you’re looking at have one, and, if so, are there lawn or construction restrictions? Is there a yearly fee?
  • Tourist attractions: What does the city have to offer? 

Once you’ve completed the background research, visit the neighborhoods that meet your needs and remember your first impression. What do you notice first about the neighborhood? Do the streets have curb appeal? Are the houses well-maintained? Are there a variety of shops and restaurants in the area?

You’ll want to feel good about where you call home, and impress buyers when you’re ready to move on. Next you will want to visualize yourself in the neighborhood and consider your daily routine. Where will you walk your dog or go jogging? Observe the neighborhood at different times of the day by driving through it to give you a snapshot of life in the community — good and bad. Do the roads turn into a parking lot after school or during rush hour? Are neighbors and kids socializing or do people keep to themselves? Are the streets well-lit at night? These visual clues can help you decide if you’ll fit in. Stop and listen. Bird and nature sounds are generally pleasant, but what about noise from the highway, airport, train tracks or outdoor pets? It’s not very restful to listen to a barking dog — especially every morning at 6:05 am.

Look for warning signs. Be on the lookout for signs that the neighborhood is in trouble. What condition are the roads and landscaping? Are there a lot of “For Sale” signs, foreclosures or rentals? Remember if the community goes downhill, so does your house’s value. Lastly, ask yourself if the neighborhood matches your needs in a living environment — and if it meets your criteria. Just because it’s a nice neighborhood doesn’t mean it’s the one for you. If the neighborhood meets your list but still feels wrong, search out another area. Trust your instincts — after all, you’re the one who has to live there.