The neighborhood you choose can have a big impact on your lifestyle—safety, available
amenities, and convenience all play their part. While the home itself is the icing on the cake of the home buying process, the neighborhood your home is in can be equally important in the decision. You are not only buying the home itself, but are also becoming part of the community that home is in. The following are a few helpful tips in narrowing down your perfect neighborhood.
1. Make a list of the activities—movies, health club, place of worship—you engage in
regularly and stores you visit frequently. See how far you would have to travel from each
neighborhood you’re considering to engaging in your most common activities.
2. Check out the school district. The Department of Education in your state can probably
provide information on test scores, class size, percentage of students who attend college,
and special enrichment programs. If you have school-age children, also consider paying a
visit to schools in the neighborhoods you’re considering. Even if you don’t have children,
a house in a good school district will be easier to sell in the future.
3. Find out if the neighborhood is safe. Ask the police department for neighborhood crime
statistics. Consider not only the number of crimes but also the type—burglaries, armed
robberies—and the trend of increasing or decreasing crime. Also, is crime centered in
only one part of the neighborhood, such as near a retail area?
4. Determine if the neighborhood is economically stable. Check with your local city
economic development office to see if income and property values in the neighborhood
are stable or rising. What is the percentage of homes to apartments? Apartments don’t
necessarily diminish value, but they do mean a more transient population. Do you see
vacant businesses or homes that have been for sale for months?
5. See if you’ll make money. Ask your REALTOR to get information about price
appreciation trends in the neighborhood. Although past performance is no guarantee of
future results, this information may give you a sense of how good an investment your
home will be. Also, your REALTOR or the government planning agency may be able
to tell you about planned developments or other changes in the neighborhood—like a
new school or highway—that might affect value. Check out City Data for some
great information by zip code or city.
6. See for yourself. Once you’ve narrowed your focus to two or three neighborhoods, go
there, and walk around. Are homes tidy and well maintained? Are streets quiet? Pick a
warm day if you can and chat with people working or playing outside.