Finding A Community That’s Right For You
If houses are like spouses, neighborhoods are like extended family. Except unlike your spouse’s extended family, you see your neighborhood “family members” everyday. And you’ll never be happy in your dream home if the surrounding area isn’t dream-worthy as well.
So before day dreaming about the perfect house with the perfect view, take the time to envision your ideal neighborhood.
Need help? Try these brainstorming tips to spark your imagination!
The Wish List
You can’t start looking for your dream neighborhood if you don’t have some idea of what you want. So, ask yourself the big questions. What are your must-haves? What do you want now? In the future? Do you envision a starter home or are you planning to stay put? And so on.
Gary Scheivert of Berkshire Hathaway suggests making a list of your present and future needs and see how different areas match up. For example, “Do you plan to have children in the future? If so, you may want a neighborhood that has a tot lot and sidewalks,” says Gary. And of course, a great school district.
“Singles or couples without kids might prioritize other benefits,” notes Gary. Things like walkability, proximity to activities and restaurants, plus your commute to work are all important to consider.
For couples, Holly Gross of The Gross Realty Group recommends each client makes a list separately, then both make a list together. “This way you’ll be able to see what you can compromise on, what you can’t, and go from there,” she explains.
A close-knit community with locally owned shops, dining and a theater at its center. A quiet rolling landscape with a handful of homes across acres of open farmland. A suburban family town mixing the best of city and country life just a short drive from great shopping. Which sounds most appealing to you? Anything else on your wish list?
Usually location and its corresponding personality are the first things people think about. “It might sound trite and obvious,” says Holly Gross, “but it really is the most important selling point to many people.” And just like your place in your extended family, you want to feel you fit in and are part of the larger community.
Some people will even sacrifice convenience or higher price if the area feels like the right fit. “If you’re really set on that rural landscape, driving 20 minutes to get to the grocery store doesn’t feel like an inconvenience,” says Holly.
If you know you can’t stand cramped city life or you’d feel isolated if your nearest neighbor was acres away, you’ll have a much easier time narrowing down your options.
Going hand in hand with an area’s overall lifestyle, neighborhood amenities are equally important. “Most buyers are very concerned with what’s around them, depending on their stage of life,” notes Missy Schwartz of Berkshire Hathaway. That’s where your wish list comes in handy.
“I always recommend driving around a little, at different time of the day, night and week,” says Missy. “It’s the best way to get a first-hand feel for the area.” Safety is always a top priority—those daytime verses nighttime visits are good tests in your research.
Being close to amenities like quality shopping, dining, hospitals, cultural attractions or nature might also be important to you. Or perhaps you’d feel better if your child’s school was minutes away, regardless of whether you choose a public or private school.
The vast amount of information on the internet has made the research process a lot easier. “Buyers coming to our area are very educated these days, not only about the individual properties, but also the region’s numerous perks,” agree agents Amy Mc
Kenna and Cindy Orr of Country Properties. “When they’ve already chosen their ideal town, it allows us to spend more time assisting buyers in finding the home to match their specific needs.”
A neighborhood is also defined by the people who live there. Especially if you’re community minded and like to get to know your neighbors, you’ll want to move somewhere that will make you feel connected. For this reason, towns with plenty of local events tend to be popular.
Also think about your stage of life. Parents might want to move to an area full of families they and their kids can make friends with. Singles will likely feel more comfortable around others in the same stage of life than with those families with little ones. And empty nesters and retirees looking for peace and quiet might not find it in a lively college town.
We all want the best value for our money, so it’s important to know budget limitations and overall cost of living in the target neighborhoods. Mortgages, resale values, property taxes, homeowner’s association fees and zoning regulations are all things to take into consideration.
If the value of your home increases, make sure you can afford the resulting increase in taxes. Likewise, if you’re not planning to stay forever, you’ll want to be aware of resale trends in an area.
Also think about the amount of freedom you’d like to have on your property. Check for rules and restrictions about home additions like pools, fences, siding and landscaping, plus limits on other things like motorcycles, noise and animals. Typically condos and private developments will have more rules governing what you do to and in your home. Do some soul searching to decide whether those restrictions will feel limiting or if they might be the perfect solution to past neighborhood pet peeves.
Now that you’re armed with your list and knowledge, you’re one step closer to buying your next home!