Location, Location, Location – it may seem like a cliche phrase you’d see in a real estate advertisement. But like most cliches, it comes from some truth. When you’re house hunting, location is one of the most significant choices you’ll make. Location affects affordability, value and your quality of life. Here are a few important points that you should keep in mind when scouting out and choosing the neighborhood that is right for you.
Before you even begin house hunting, consider your current lifestyle and needs. What is your current way of life (or what do you aspire to) and will the neighborhood support it? You might fall in love with a home, but if the neighborhood doesn’t fit your lifestyle, it could cause unhappiness or discontentment in the long term.
It’s helpful to begin your search with at least a general sense of your values, needs and priorities. Are you looking for something urban, suburban or more off the beaten path? Do you value privacy and quiet over being in the center of all the action, or vice versa? Do you have children or are you planning to have them soon?
Take a look at your daily routine and identify the things that make you happy, the things you could live without and the things you couldn’t. If long daily walks on the beach are a must, you’re probably going to want to narrow your search to neighborhoods that are on or close to the water. If you absolutely need a yard with a pool, it might automatically exclude the busy downtown center where homes have small yards or are primarily condo or townhouse-style homes.
Aside from the price point, your lifestyle priorities will probably be the biggest determining factor in choosing a neighborhood, or at least narrowing it down to a few potential candidates.
Amenities and Conveniences
Take time to explore each neighborhood you’re considering and identify the nearby amenities and conveniences. If the neighborhood is more suburban or rural, you’ll have to determine how far you are willing to travel for everyday conveniences such as grocery or convenience stores, dry cleaners, gas stations, health services and more.
Identify or research some of the other local amenities such as parks, community centers, recreational activities, museums and other attractions. Walkability has become a bragging right for many neighborhoods. More and more home buyers are leaning toward areas where they can walk to the local coffee shop, dining spots and shopping centers.
Ask yourself how you plan to get around. Will you be driving, walking or taking public transportation to get to and from work and other activities? For most buyers, especially those who live in an urban area with major traffic concerns, the time it takes to commute to and from work and schools is a major consideration. How long are you willing to spend in the car or commuting each day?
Consider how your commute time will affect your quality of life. Will it detract from time spent with family and friends, or do the benefits of a neighborhood with a longer commute time outweigh the costs?
If you have, or are planning to have children, schools could be a major determining factor in your neighborhood of choice. Research schools in the area including elementary, middle and high schools. You may also want to familiarize yourself with the school districts and boundaries.
Market Conditions and Affordability
For most buyers the ultimate decision comes down to affordability and a compromise to get the most for your money. Buying a home is a very personal decision, but it’s also a huge investment. For many people, a home is one of the most important investments they will make. It’s important to research each neighborhood to better understand the market trends and property values.
Working with a real estate agent who is familiar with the area can be helpful in determining if property values are on the rise, have been declining or are holding steady. Are there lots of new developments in the area? Are new businesses moving in? Are there any other external factors that could contribute to changes in home value in the area, such as a new public transportation system, changing city regulations or other conditions?
Finding the ideal neighborhood can be a balancing act of give and take, but if you’ve done your homework and have a clear idea of your short and long-term goals, it will make the entire search process much more manageable.
Sally Forster Jones
February 14, 2017