Before you start house-hunting, narrow down your neighborhood selection with the help of this list:
The biggest concern for most homebuyers tops our list: Where is it? A potential new neighborhood may be more or less desirable to you based on its proximity to family, friends, work, schools, and other amenities, like grocery stores and shopping. If walkability matters to you, you can look up a neighborhood’s walk score here. Conversely, you may prioritize space and want to live in a less crowded area outside of city limits.
Do you like to go out on the weekends to social hotspots and spend time with friends? Then a neighborhood with restaurants and bars or close to public transportation may be what you’re looking for. Is your commute killing you? Then you might appreciate moving closer to the office. Are your kids missing their grandparents? Then living near loved ones could be a smart move.
What about the people you’ll be living next to? This may be one time when it’s okay to judge a book by its cover, or a neighborhood by its atmosphere. To get a feel for this, try to visit a new neighborhood at different times of day. You can gain insight into how busy a neighborhood is during rush hours, as well as how friendly neighbors appear to be. Alternately, if you’re looking for more privacy and less interaction, consider this too.
If you have kids now or plan to start a family, a home’s school district is something to look into:
- Your neighborhood choice may be impacted by whether you’d like your kids to walk or ride the bus to school.
- You might also be limited to certain neighborhoods if you’d like to stay within a certain district.
- If you don’t plan to have kids, it can still be beneficial to buy in a neighborhood with a good school district; this may help to attract buyers in the future when you’re ready to sell.
Plugging potential houses into a site like Neighborhood Scout can tell you more about applicable public school districts, along with how a neighborhood’s prices compare to the rest of the city and what makes the neighborhood stand out. Great Schools is another tool that provides ratings for local districts.
While a new neighborhood may seem safe upon first visit, local crime reports are always worth checking into. You can visit Spot Crime to search for incidents by address. Likewise, it can be helpful to browse the neighborhood on Nextdoor and even ask some of the neighbors. If you live nearby, you might also consider driving or walking through the neighborhood at night to gain more perspective.
The desirability of a neighborhood, as well as its demand, can influence its housing prices. As you’ve probably observed, some neighborhoods are bound to be costlier than others:
- Neighborhoods with highly rated schools may also have higher property taxes.
- How much you pay in annual property taxes can add to your housing cost.
- Your real estate agent can give you a better idea of a neighborhood’s property tax rate and how much (if at all) it’s recently increased.
If a neighborhood has a Homeowners Association, or HOA, you may also expect to pay monthly or annual dues.
6. Outdoor spaces.
Are there parks within walking distance, and if so, what’s their general condition? You can determine this by driving by if you live in the area or by using Google Street View. Not every park is created equal, so some of this will depend on your expectations. Do you plan to use grills, pavilions, and pools? Or are playgrounds, ponds, and hiking trails more important to you?
If you have pets, you might also be specifically seeking pet-friendly spaces. How far away are the dog parks? Are there even any nearby? Some cities are known for being more pet-friendly than others, and this might be reflected in the amenities you find. If you’re buying into a new neighborhood with an HOA, make sure to inquire about their rules, restrictions, and offerings for pets.