Researching a Neighborhood Before Buying a House
Your absolute dream home could turn into a nightmare if it’s located in an undesirable neighborhood. That’s why researching your neighborhood before purchasing a home is a critical step in the process. But where should you start?
Everyone has different priorities and desires for their neighborhood, so we recommend that you start by determining your most important criteria when buying a home. If having access to public transportation is essential, or living on a family-friendly street is important to your lifestyle, you should weigh those factors into your assessment of a particular neighborhood. Make a list of “must haves,” “nice to haves,” and “deal-breakers,” which can be helpful to ensuring your new home meets all of your top requirements. Below, we highlight some common areas to consider when researching your neighborhood.
If it’s important for you to be able to walk to and from stores, restaurants and/or schools, you’ll need to determine your neighborhood’s walkability score. If walkability is an important factor you should consider checking to make sure you have accessibility sidewalks along the routes.
The easiest way to check the walkability is to – you guessed it, walk around the neighborhood yourself. This not only allows you time to explore the area, but gives you a feel for what it may be like to live there.
Neighbor curb appeal
While walking around your potential neighborhood, pay close attention to the other houses on the street. Are there any homes in disrepair? Are any lawns not mowed or yards with trash? You want to ensure you are moving to an area where the neighbors take pride in their home’s appearance and maintain the essence of the neighborhood.
Curb appeal can also affect your potential home’s value. If the houses in the neighborhood are well-kept and have excellent curb appeal, this will increase your home’s value if you decide to sell one day.
If you have young children or are planning to have children, an important element to research is whether the neighborhood is family-friendly. While walking around, notice if there are children playing outside in their yards or if you see signage to slow down in the neighborhood. These are just a few signs that the neighborhood is a welcoming environment for children.
Many neighborhoods also host activities specifically for children around the holidays, such as Easter egg hunts, Halloween parades, and even neighborhood cookouts. The easiest way to determine if this is happening in the neighborhood is by browsing local Facebook pages where neighbors will often share event information. These activities not only bring the community together, but also establish relationships and friendships.
School district evaluations
When relocating to a new neighborhood, researching the school district is often a top priority for parents. It’s important to note that many towns have multiple elementary schools, so you’ll want to research which district the particular home you are looking for is located in. Some schools may be in older buildings or have larger class sizes, so it’s important to do your due diligence and confirm whether or not the district best suits your family’s needs.
Evaluating the school district can help you make an informed decision about your neighborhood that meets your family’s educational aspirations.
For those who work in the city and don’t have access to a car, public transportation is crucial. It is important to research your daily commute and decide if it is doable.
With that said, many homes are near train tracks, and in certain towns, trains sound their horns 15-20 seconds before entering all public grade crossings. If the house you are considering is near train tracks, it’s important to find out if the train can be heard from inside, or if the train passing by causes the house to shake. At times, these interruptions can be unnerving and unideal depending on the timing.
An extra step you can take during the research process is driving by the house at different times throughout the day. Pay attention to the traffic patterns, are there morning or evening commuters? Does the traffic increase at certain times of the day? Having a general idea of the traffic pattern around the neighborhood will help you decide if it will affect your day-to-day life.
Before purchasing your home, it’s important to learn if there’s a homeowners association (HOA) for the neighborhood. If your community is a part of an HOA, you may need to pay either monthly or yearly fees to cover any split costs, which could significantly impact your budget. Some HOAs have communal swimming pools or tennis courts while others are just used to upkeep and maintain private roads and common areas for landscaping. Clarify what exactly is being covered by your HOA so you’re well prepared.
Lastly, it is essential to research the crime rate in your potential neighborhood. Having knowledge of any unearthing events near the neighborhood can spare you the stress of living on a concerning street and prevent a difficult sale in the future. There are a number of online resources that make it easy to find out local crime statistics such as SpotCrime and CrimeMapping.
Leverage expert guidance
Researching a new neighborhood can feel overwhelming, but it’s a critical step before buying a home. You can also speak with neighbors to get a feel of the area. Longtime residents will often give honest opinions about the neighborhood and provide helpful information prior to purchasing. One of the best ways to begin the process is by working with a seasoned real estate attorney who knows the area. If you’re on the hunt for your dream home in your dream neighborhood, reach out to Elizabeth Grimes, real estate attorney at Ligris + Associates PC.
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