Amid the excitement of hunting for the perfect house for you and your family, don’t forget to pay attention to your surroundings. It doesn’t matter how perfect your chosen house is — disliking the neighborhood can make your living situation unbearable. And it works the other way, too. A neighborhood you love may be worth sacrificing an extra bathroom or granite countertops. We’ve compiled a list of ways to narrow the search for your dream location.
List your most-frequent stops.
Decide whether a long daily commute to work is a deal breaker, and also list places you visit at least once a week such as a gym, church, grocery store or relative’s house. For each neighborhood under consideration, write down how long it would take to get to each location, and how many miles. The gas money alone may convince you to reconsider.
Conduct a safety check.
To get an idea of what types of crimes are being committed and where you can visit www.crimereports.com/ or ask the local police department. Also be on the lookout for Neighborhood Watch signs—that doesn’t necessarily mean crime is a problem, but it suggests neighbors interact and work together to help keep each other safe.
Check out the school district.
Even if you don’t have school-age children, buying a house in a good school district can make it easier to sell your house in the future. Look at things like test scores and percentage of students who attend college. You can find the data at www.greatschools.org/ or through the U.S. Department of Education. If you do have school-age children, take the time to visit each school they may be attending.
Investigate the economy.
If you’re seeing several vacant homes and businesses, this could be a sign that the economy isn’t doing very well in that neighborhood. Ask a local real estate agent about appreciation trends and any future development plans. These will all have an impact on the value of your home and can help you decide whether it will be a good investment.
Take a stroll.
Before signing on the dotted line, take a walk around the neighborhood on a weekend. Are there a lot of families out doing the same thing? Are they friendly when you pass each other? This will give you a good idea of the sense of community and can also be an indicator of safety.
Trust your instincts.
It may be a safe, up and coming neighborhood with great schools, but none of that means anything if you simply don’t feel comfortable there. This is also why visiting each neighborhood is so important. Can you see yourself sitting on your front porch on that street? Would you and your dog enjoy walking on those sidewalks? Whether you’re moving across the country or across town, it can be challenging to adjust to new people in a new place. Your neighborhood can have a huge impact on your daily life. It’s worth the time and effort to research, to make sure you’re moving into the perfect place for you and your family.