Finding the Right Neighborhood

We dedicate a hefty chunk of our time looking for our dream home, hunting for the perfect master bedroom, kitchen countertops, and bathroom shower. But what often gets left behind is outside that white picket fence and one of the hugest components of our lives: the neighborhood.

You know what you like about your current neighborhood, and you know what you dislike, so don’t risk sending your moving company with all your possessions to your new dream home if it’s submerged in everything you don’t like about a neighborhood.

When you begin your research, think about the basics. Ask yourself what you need:

Noise level could mean the peaceful sound of birds chirping distantly in the morning, or barking dogs and loud parties keeping you up at night. Perhaps you live on a main street, and the traffic—especially those cars with glass-rattling sound systems—don’t particularly amuse you. A good way to avoid this is to spend some time around your potential home. Meet neighbors and talk to local workers for their honest opinions.

What’s your likely daily commute to work going to be like? You might have found your dream home, but if you’re spending hours on the road to and from work every day, how much of that home will you really see? A good idea is, if you can, to drive your route to work at the likely times you’ll be heading in and heading out. This’ll give you an idea of what you’re in for.

Think about necessities. Do you have easy, quick access to grocery stores? Would you prefer to walk to a local corner store? How about restaurants and entertainment? Also consider the local culture of the neighborhood. This could play a big part in whether or not drivers are courteous on the road, if your community supports recycling, if your neighborhood has an active watch committee, and so forth.

Perhaps, most importantly if you have children or plan to have children, is your proximity to schools. The neighborhood of your dream home may or may not have a convenient school transit system. You may also want to look into local parks and recreation for the family to visit, or any potential attractions.

Don’t forget about crime rate, either. If it can be helped, you don’t want to move into a community that had just experienced a series of car thefts or break-ins. Even the quietest-looking neighborhood could be at risk. Ask your realtor for information about the crime rates of particular neighborhoods, or call the local police station.

Last, and possibly the biggest component, is your cost of living. Assess how much you spend currently, including all your utilities, groceries, recreational activities—everything. Then, compare it to what you would be spending in the potential neighborhood. Look at taxes, food and gas prices, utility costs, climate, and everything else that might play a part. Make sure you’re not pushing the budget, but don’t sell yourself short, either.

Sometimes the change in our lives that spurs moving to a new home causes us to act too quickly. This could be caused by a divorce, starting a family, or accepting a job offer. Keep in mind, however, that while the move is temporary, your home is not. Take the time to research your neighborhood just as thoroughly as you would research your relocation services.