Finding the Perfect Neighborhood

October 25 2010 (Chris Moore)
tree-lined-street
Everyone has their own idea of what a perfect neighborhood is. Tree lined streets, low crime, close to shopping, etc. But the economic reality is that we can’t all live there and even the best neighborhoods don’t always have the amenities that we’re looking for. So be prepared to compromise and prioritize.

If you ask a Realtor, you’ll hear those familiar words, “Location, location, location!” But you can’t always get that “location” and if you do, it’ll come with a premium. Also, those words of Realtor wisdom are also meant to echo future possibilities in the event you are sure you are going to sell your home in the future as premium lots usually sell faster.

But what if your future plans are to live in one neighborhood until your children are grown or you plan on staying until you retire…or beyond? And as much as we’d all like…you can’t pick your neighbors and you can’t predict how a neighborhood will stand the test of time, but a drive down the street in a prospective neighborhood can tell you a lot about which direction that neighborhood is going now.

So here are some things to consider when you’re out there looking for your perfect neighborhood:

Economic Health
Perhaps in times like these, this is one of the most important qualities to consider when shopping for a home. Most cities have information on about the overall economic health of their cities such as income levels, job market information, and other factors that contribute to overall health of their city. An area that has high unemployment or job losses will eventually cause diminishing value as more homes will be in foreclosure and current homeowners will not have the financial ability to keep their houses up.

Drive down the street. How many houses are for sale and what’s the general condition of the homes in the neighborhood? The bottom line is “pride of ownership” takes money and if a neighborhood has high unemployment or job losses, you can expect the care of their homes to suffer.

Amenities
This is an area where you might have the most compromises, so prioritize what’s important to you in terms of what amenities are the most important to you.

Are the streets nice and elegant? Are there plenty of trees and parks in the area? What about access shopping malls or fine dining? It’s up to you to decide which features are the highest priorities and which can be just not that important for you.

If you have a family or are just starting out, living adjacent to excellent schools may be crucial to you but if you’re retired they probably would not be, but you might be interested in what senior activities are near by.

Quality Schools
If you do have children or are planning on having children then checking out the local school district should be high on your priority list. Information is readily available from most school districts and states about the quality of education in specific districts and schools that your children will be attending.

Being in a neighborhood with good schools can also have a big effect on the future market price of your home. Even if you’re an empty nester or retired, the next family looking to buy your home may make their buying decision on the quality of the local school district.

Crime Rates
Here’s another area that should be high on your priority list. Find out about the local crime rates by contacting the local police department, reviewing the city’s official statistics, and don’t be afraid to speak with your potential neighbors.

Future Trends
No one can predict the future of a neighborhood. But there are things that you can look for that might be an indicator as to which direction a neighborhood is heading. Take that drive around the block and notice what you see.

Do the homeowners appear to take care of their properties in general? Do they appear to have pride in their neighborhood? Are the houses preserved suitably, or are there piles of garbage and abandoned cars throughout the neighborhood?

Do you see indicators of plenty of positive progress close to you, or has the beautiful playground area been replaced by an eyesore such as an unsightly office building or parking garage? Are businesses leaving this area, or is there the guarantee of persistent development and vivacity in this neighborhood?

Signs of degradation in the area should definitely provide you with pause when looking to buy a home.
And remember…it’s not just the street you’re considering to live on, it’s the whole neighborhood.