If you think about it, your home is like a spouse, and the neighborhood is like the extended family. You have to live with both so it won't hurt to take a good look at the bigger picture. Here are a few tips to become a neighborhood detective and find the perfect home:
What Do You Want In A Neighborhood?
Before you can scrutinize a neighborhood you have to scrutinize yourself. What do you want in a neighborhood? And what do you need? Of course, you won't be able to get everything you want, but having a list of your must haves and a list of your wants will help you make the right decision. Here are a few things you may want to consider for your list:
- Do you have kids or are you planning on having kids in the future? As a parent, you'll probably want to choose a neighborhood with a great school system. Also, great schools also raise local property values, so even if you're single, choosing an area with good schools is a net positive. You'll also want to look for close proximity to local parks or community recreation centers to keep the young ones entertained.
- What type of housing are you looking for? If you're looking for a condo or a townhome, you'll have to deal with a close proximity of neighbors. If this is you, be sure to walk around the neighborhood and see how the neighborhood interacts. If you're looking for a singe-family home, you'll have more freedom from neighbors, but you'll also have to deal with more maintenance issues. Is the neighborhood well maintained?
- How's the commute? I've had clients find the perfect neighborhood but the drive to work was just to long. You don't want to buy a home and later regret it because the commute is killing precious family time. Do you have a car or do you need a home close to public transportation systems? Are you planning on walking to work? Knowing what you expect is good for you and your real estate agent.
- Do you want new or rustic? Older neighborhoods are filled with character and can be closer to town. You'll also find older neighborhoods may need more upkeep and maintenance. Newer neighborhoods are usually cleaner and require less up-keep, but you may not be able to find one close to town. Also, new neighborhoods may still be under construction which could cause a headache. Be sure to weigh both options and determine what will work for you.
- What do you hate about the neighborhood you're in? With the experience you've gained in your current neighborhood, I'm sure there are a few things you'd like to change. Don't move to a neighborhood you already know you won't like.
Using your list of must haves and wants, you should be able to narrow down to a few specific areas. Choose the ones that have your needs and the most wants. Now choose the neighborhoods that meet the criteria we outlined above. Here are a few more things to help you hone in on the perfect neighborhood:
- Schools - Take a list of schools your kids would attend even if you don't have kids. Remember, good schools increase property values. You can find many great websites online with parent reviews and test scores.
- Crime - Crime rates have a cause and affect on neighborhood values. You can get crime stats online or call the local police station for up to date information.
- Parks - Parks are great if they are well maintained. You don't want a neighborhood that houses the local drug cartels. A good park close to your home is an excellent feature for re-sale and will help maintain your properties value.
- HOA's - A homeowners association can be both good and bad. Find out the monthly fees and what type of restrictions they enforce. An overbearing HOA can be a nightmare so research carefully.
- Attractions - What type of attractions does the neighborhood have? You can check with the local tourism and chamber websites to find out what tourism and business are in the area.
- Busy Streets - A busy street can kill a properties value. Be sure to check with local transportation authorities on any planned of future projects in the area. A busy road can reduce your properties value up to 20% depending on the traffic and noise.
You can research a neighborhood all day online but nothing compares to talking a walk through the area. Visit the neighborhoods that stand out in your initial findings. You may find that the neighborhood you thought was perfect just doesn't stack up. Using your senses to choose a great neighborhood:
- Sight - When you first visit the neighborhood, what's your first impression? Are the homes well maintained? Does the curb appeal make you excited to live there? Can you see yourself living in the neighborhood and being happy with your decision? Lookout for homes in foreclosure or in dire repair, abandoned warehouses and buildings, and vandalism.
- Sound - Listen to the sounds of the neighborhood. Are there kids playing in the streets and birds singing in the trees? Or do you here industrial buildings and cars? Are there nearby train tracks? Do airplanes fly low close by? Talk to the local residents. If they're rude and don't want to talk, you may not want to live there. Ask where they hang out and how they like the neighborhood. People like to know who's moving into their neighborhood and is usually welcome a chat with potential neighbors.
- Smell - How does it smell? Can you smell fresh air or is it close to a chicken farm? You can't tell if a neighborhood smells bad until you get out of your car and walk the sidewalks. If there aren't any bad smells, be sure to ask the locals if it changes during the different seasons. During winter, smells may not be present, but come spring, a neighborhood with melting snow could be quiet different.
- Feel - Does it feel right? Many buyers out there will buy a home because as soon as they walked in, it just felt right. How does the neighborhood feel? If it feels right, it probably is. Don't ignore your initial feelings as they are usually your best.
- Taste - Does the neighborhood match your taste? No, I don't want you to lick the street signs! Are you high and classy? Is the neighborhood full of classy amenities? Are you simple and old school? Is the neighborhood nice and quiet? Are you into the night life? Does it have the local hot spots you're looking for?
Once you've gone over your checklists, taken a walk through, and used your senses; it's time to make close the deal. Buying a home can be really fun or extremely stressful. Using these tips to ensure your neighborhood is the perfect place for your new home will help you enjoy the experience. All you have to do now is close the deal:
- Figure Out Your Financing - When you feel you're getting close to finding the best neighborhoods, it's time to get your financing options in order. Great houses in the best neighborhoods sell fast no matter how bad the real estate market is. If you're not ready to write an offer, there's a good chance someone else was already waiting for that home to come on the market and will swipe it right from underneath your feet. You should get pre-approved as son as you know decide you want to buy a home.
- Find A Realtor - You may not want to work with a Realtor, but they are invaluable to a real estate transaction. Yes, I am a Realtor myself, but even before I became an agent, I tried it both ways. I bought without an agent and the stress was almost unbearable. I ended up hiring an agent and everything changed, it was black and white. As a buyer, the commission is already priced into a home when it's listed, so even if you don't have an agent, you'll still be paying the same amount.
- Don't Hesitate - You know the neighborhood you want to live in. You know the type of house you want your family to grow up in. You feel comfortable with your lists and have narrowed down the best choice. When that perfect home pops up on the market, whether it's next week, or next year, be ready to pounce. One of the biggest regrets of buyers is missing out on the home they really wanted. If the home fits your criteria and priced affordably, write an offer. You can always negotiate, but you can't buy a home if you don't give it your best shot.
About The Author: Lisa Udy is a Logan real estate professional providing expertise for home buyers and sellers in Norhtern, Utah. If you want to learn more about Lisa, you can read more articles about buying Logan short sales and Logan foreclosures.