Choosing a new home is an experience that can be both exciting and scary. Aside from the financial considerations you should make when choosing a new neighborhood to live in or to invest in, many other factors can play into picking the perfect neighborhood when renting, buying, or investing in a new home.
Here are six tips to remember when looking for a dreamy neighborhood.
Scout the area
Explore the neighborhood and surrounding areas. Take note of the other homes as well as the ambiance of the environment. Are you close to the amenities you desire? Is it close enough to the mountains? To the beach? Does it feel friendly? Safe? Or does it seem dangerous? Is it unwelcoming? Asking these questions while in the neighborhood may help you decide. Getting to know the area is also helpful. Take a look at the streets, sidewalks and different stores.
The grocery store, in particular, may also help you to learn more about the neighborhood. The individuals residing in the area may also give you an indicator of whether the neighborhood is perfect or not. Is it young couples? Older people? Are the streets noisy or loud? These factors indicate whether the area is growing or depopulating and if it may feel welcoming.
Make small talk with a neighbor or a person. If somebody is outside and you feel comfortable being social, go for it! There is no better way to know a place than asking somebody who already lives there.
The safety of a neighborhood can be very important for some when looking for a new place. Looking at crime statistics can help you tell whether an area is safe or not. You can check this through a crime data website like the FBI’s Crime Data Explorer. It tells you the number of violent crimes that happened around an area, and it can even be filtered by different types of crimes. You can also check criminal reports and records through a city’s website or contact local law enforcement directly.
Check the commute time to different places you frequent. Is it far from the main city? Is it a comfortable time away from your job or school? It is important to consider how far things are because you may need to commute daily. If driving isn't an option for you, is the neighborhood/area walkable? Are there other means of public transportation?
Walk Score is a good way to figure out how walkable an area is. It gives a walk score and a bike score of which neighborhoods are the most walkable. It’s also helpful when looking for nearby places like grocery stores, parks and restaurants. This website also gives you a commute report outlining different transportation options.
You may want to evaluate which amenities are important to you. That could be a park for walks or even a dog park for your furry friends. Pay attention to what’s in the community as far as stores. Is there shopping nearby? Is it strictly retail? Dining? Or is it a bit of both? The location of the neighborhood and surrounding areas can say a lot about the lifestyle and vibe of the area. Both suburban and urban areas can offer different perks for their residents—consider things like public transportation, desired lot sizes, commutes, etc when choosing between the two.
In addition, see the amenities your home may have. Does it have a pool? Is it in an HOA? Is the community easy to navigate? Does it have a neighborhood watch? These are all questions you can ask to figure out whether a neighborhood is right for you.
Research the schools
If you have children or see yourself having any in the future, you may want to research the school district by your new home. State tests can tell you if a district is performing well or if it’s performing below the state average. You can find this through Niche, a website that can tell you about the best school districts around your area.
It has an “Overall Niche Grade,” and parents or students can leave comments along with their own district ratings. You can also find how good a specific school is and which programs they offer. School programming like Advanced Placement (AP) or Dual-Credit classes can be helpful for those students who want to pursue higher education. For many, researching a school district may be a top priority when looking for the right neighborhood.
Trust your gut
Most importantly, trust yourself and your gut, no matter what the ratings, comments or place look like. Don’t rush when finding the perfect place. Make sure it feels safe and that it’s a place you can see yourself enjoying for years to come.