If you’ve ever house hunted, you know how difficult finding the perfect spot can be. Turns out, loving a house for its structural soundness alone isn’t always enough, which is why striking a balance between love of house and love of surrounding area is a non-negotiable.
Finding the ideal neighborhood may not be as tricky as you think, but it does require a little legwork. And while everyone knows about the real estate world’s worst-kept secret — location, location, location — there may be a few criteria you’ve yet to consider.
So, before you step foot in one more open house, make sure these 15 things are on your list.
1. School district
Kids or no kids, a town’s school district says a lot about an area. And the sentiment usually goes a little something like this: Good schools, good community. Bad schools, good luck. So, if you’re looking for a good, safe neighborhood with individuals who care about where they live, you need not look much further than the school district itself.
Next: Getting around should be easy.
2. Public transportation
When it comes to house hunting, everyone needs to ask themselves some important questions. And one of those questions is, “How important is it that I be close to public transportation?”
For some, proximity to the subway, commuter rail, taxis, and the like is of the utmost importance. For others, it’s less of an issue. Furthermore, being close to public transportation also means that the price and value of the home will be higher than if the same house were located a bit farther away.
Next: It’s all about personal touch — and preference.
3. Style of home
Style is often subjective, or at least that’s what people say when they don’t think it matters much. But the style of things does make a big difference in life. All the things in your home, from the clothes on your back to the furnishings, say something about you. And the style of your house is no different.
While everyone has their preferences, this one’s undoubtedly a factor you need to think long and hard about before signing on the dotted line, which brings us to our next point.
Next: Consider what kind of neighborhood you like best.
4. Old vs. new construction
Are you looking for a house with historic charm or a modern abode? Your answer here, of course, will drastically impact where you begin your search. A neighborhood that’s been around forever will naturally have older buildings, while a brand spanking new spot will boast newly developed projects. It’s up to you which one you’re more into.
Next: Like to party?
5. Nightlife scene
Just because you’re starting a family doesn’t mean you need to toss your dancing shoes aside for good. Or, perhaps you’re a young professional looking to invest your earnings in a killer loft. Whatever the case, considering the nightlife scene is crucial.
Even if you’re more of a homebody, chances are you’ll want to stroll out for some dinner at least once in a while. Not to mention, being close to bars, restaurants, and the like could help you meet folks in the area.
Next: Being close to a park is a non-negotiable for some.
6. Proximity to parks
Who doesn’t love a good park? From Sunday picnics to pick-up frisbee, a nice park can be the glue that keeps the entire neighborhood from unraveling. Well, OK, maybe having a park nearby isn’t that dramatic, but still, it needs to be on your wish list.
On the other hand, having a dirty, sketchy park doesn’t bode well for a neighborhood, either. So, steer clear of syringe-strewn spots — if they don’t seem to emulate positive vibes for the neighborhood, go with your gut and start searching in a new hood.
Next: This information is relatively easy to get, so don’t bypass it.
7. Crime rate
Doing your research on crime rates is an obvious move. Just be sure to your homework before you get to the open house step of the house hunting process. This kind of information should be relatively easy to find, so don’t be tempted to skimp on it in an effort to save time. You’ll be sorry in the long run if you don’t do your due diligence now.
Next: Is having an HOA a good or bad thing in your mind?
Is it better to have an HOA or not? This has been a long-debated issue for years, and ultimately, it depends on you. Do you want to pay dues to ensure the communal grounds look good? Do you want to live in a place with a dedicated Neighborhood Watch? Or are you worried that an HOA would get on you every time you decide to host a dinner party with more than five people? All of these questions are important and deserve some thought on your part.
Next: If you want to know what a neighborhood is really like, visit it at night.
9. Neighborhood vibes at different times of day
Once again, this point goes back to the safety issue. If you’ve narrowed it down to a handful of houses you’re in love with and each neighborhood seems great, then it’s time to take the next step.
You can only learn so much about a place by visiting during the day, while your real estate agent is ready and waiting at a potential house. On the flip side, if you visit the neighborhood on your own, particularly at night, you’ll have a much better chance of getting an accurate picture of what the area is really like.
Next: A noisy intersection can be a real headache.
10. Far from a busy street or intersection
Noisy traffic is hardly the sound you want lulling you to sleep at night. And who could blame you? Because peace and quiet is typically a high priority for someone looking for their forever home, it’s important to suss out nearby noise sources before making your final decision. If you land on something right near a popular intersection, you can probably kiss those quiet nights goodbye.
Next: Finding good neighbors is key.
11. Pleasant neighbors
Scoping out the neighbors is just part of the process, and it all comes down to what kind of people you want living next door. If you have young children, it may be best to avoid the college town street that’s lined with houses occupied by students each year. Or, if you’re a young professional who’s looking to meet new people, you may want to steer clear of the street that’s filled with senior couples, with no plans of moving anytime soon themselves.
Next: Like strolling the neighborhood? Find a place with lots of sidewalks.
12. Plenty of sidewalks
This may sound mundane, but an abundance of sidewalks really can be a good sign for a neighborhood. It means that town upkeep is of high priority. Furthermore, meandering sidewalks suggest that strolling around the neighborhood is common practice, which means there will be plenty of residents out and about on a regular basis.
Next: Fancy yourself a lady — or man — of leisure? You’ll want to look into nearby amenities.
You don’t have to live in a high rise apartment building in order to expect a certain list of amenities be available near your home. In fact, there are probably a handful of community amenities you’ve never even considered before. But now, it’s time to factor them into your list of must-haves.
Maybe you’re interested in being close to a rec center or a neighborhood pool. Or, perhaps a nice library is important to you. What about a community farmer’s market during the summer? These types of things are definitely worth asking about.
Next: Convenience is crucial.
Gas, groceries, and, for most folks, booze are all essentials, and quick access to them can be the difference between a bad-day-at-work-turned-better type of day or an everything-about-today-is-terrible kind of day. Scoping out the proximity to life’s everyday conveniences, whatever those may be for you, can really make or break how positive an experience you stand to have in your new home.
Next: How does the neighbor’s house look?
15. Well-maintained yards
You can learn a lot by looking at someone’s yard. How well-kept is the property? Is it overgrowing with dead weeds, or does it have a perfectly manicured front lawn?
If the house you’ve been eyeing is in a neighborhood with well-kept homes, it’s a good sign. On the other hand, if the house you’ve been eyeing sticks out like a sore thumb and is literally the only house on the block whose front door you can see, well then, you should run.
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