Buying your first home? This is undoubtedly an exciting affair, but have you considered where you want to live? There’s so much involved in finding that perfect first home, but it starts with choosing the right neighborhood. No matter how much you like any house, you’ll soon realize that location is the most important determining factor in choosing that dream home. Remember, you can change everything about your new home except the location.
In this guide, I will take you through finding your dream neighborhood.
What to Look for in an Ideal Neighborhood
Location impacts virtually everything in your daily life. It affects the type of schooling your children attend, living standards, security, privacy, sense of community, and so much more. Choosing the right community determines if your family will enjoy living in their first home.
When scouting for a neighborhood, you have multiple factors to consider. Take a look:
- Quality of the Local Schools
If you have a family or intend to start one soon, the type of schools in the community is an important consideration. A well-performing school district is a strong selling point for the best neighborhoods in any city. Some points to help evaluate the quality of schools include tests and scores, types of programs, extracurricular activities, and sports programs.
- Public Transportation
Public transportation is crucial when comparing different neighborhoods if you want to commute to and from work. Accessibility to the transit facilities allows you to get around town quickly.
Check for information from the local transit authorities to understand how accessible public transport is around that dream first home you’ve earmarked. Confirm how close the nearest bus or commuter train line is to your new home, the frequency of pick-ups/drop-offs, the flexibility of the schedules during weekdays and weekends, the cost, and the time required for different connections.
- Proximity to Work Or School
Where is your target home to your place of work or the school for your children? If the distance is not manageable every morning, consider another neighborhood. The availability of light rail or metro transit buses can ease the pain. If you are driving around, you can choose a home in an area further off your workplace.
- Neighborhood Security
Security is critical in choosing the right neighborhood. You might find a nice house at a low price in a high crime rate, but this would mean investing heavily in security systems. Some pointers to help you evaluate safety in a new neighborhood include:
- Current crime statistics
- Presence of a neighborhood watch group
- Proper street lighting
Talk to your real estate agent, neighbors, and security agents, read local media, and scour through social media posts to get an accurate picture of the security situation in any neighborhood.
- Amenities in the Neighborhood
When buying a home, you’re also looking for a nice place to live and raise a family. Amenities make neighborhoods more comfortable or livable. Consider community amenities such as parks, shopping centers, restaurants, fun areas for kids, fitness centers, jogging-friendly pavements, biking trails, water features, outdoor fun, golf course opportunities, and more.
When visiting potential neighborhoods, explore the area and get a feel for the community. Talk to local residents and ask about their experiences living in the area. When comparing the neighborhoods in a city, look for amenities that suit your lifestyle.
- Future Developments
Before you choose a home in any neighborhood, talk to your real estate agent about future developments in the area. This is your first home; you might be in this neighborhood for many years. Don’t look at only what you can see but also consider any projected infrastructural activities at the local planning office. Will such developments affect your home? Could they affect the value of the property positively or negatively?
Do you love walking? Are you coming from a neighborhood that has paved walkways and paths? Check out if the new neighborhood has such amenities. Walkable paths might not be the first thing in mind when scouting for the right setting, but they can affect your lifestyle. Walking is healthy; if you have a pet, you need a neighborhood with people and animal-friendly pathways.
- Nearby Features
Check what’s around the neighborhood before you make an offer on that first home. This will be your community for many years and maybe even a lifetime. Some nearby features that make a neighborhood attractive include parks, rivers or lakes, biking and walking trails, hospitals, and schools.
Other facilities that add to the convenience of a neighborhood include a gas station or convenience store, grocery store, shops and shopping center, auto repair, post office, coffee shops and restaurants, or entertainment spots. On the other hand, nearby features could make a neighborhood less attractive, including noisy factories, a railroad or airport, a power plant, or other facilities that cause noise and air or water pollution.
- HOA (Homeowner Association)
HOA (homeowner associations) are highly popular, with data showing 66.9% of new homes completed in 2021 are part of HOA communities. Living in a HOA has myriad benefits, including the range of HOA amenities available, swimming pools, gyms and fitness centers, trails, bike paths, basketball and tennis courts, and games.
These residences give a sense of community, and you have like-minded neighbors. The neighborhoods are also well maintained, which raises the property values. You can compare these benefits against those of stand-alone homes in any neighborhood you love.
- Property Taxes
What’s the current tax rate of property taxes? How’s the trend in property taxes over the last five years? Your real estate agent guides you through such details and updates you on any expected increase in property taxes. Then, factor any such increases into your home-buying budget.
Quick Tips to Choose the Best Neighborhood
Now that you know what to look for in a good neighborhood, it’s time to hit the tarmac. Here are some tips to get you started on your search:
- Create a profile for your perfect neighborhood: What are your needs regarding where you wish to live? Ask yourself what you’re really looking for in a location. Some factors to consider include family, type of job, readiness to commute, type of home you want, and expectations in a good neighborhood.
- Use your local real estate agent: These real estate professionals pride themselves in their knowledge of the neighborhood and readily share such details with you.
- Ask questions: When you search, ask anyone you can about the neighborhood. From neighbors, local police, and store owners to your real estate agent, get as much information as possible about the area.
- Leverage Internet technology: Go online and search everything you can about the neighborhood where you want to buy your first home. A quick search for “why live in neighborhood X” gives you much information about the history, crime, people, and much more.
- Drive around the neighborhood: Take slow drives to get an orientation. Watch out for red flags, such as gangs or drug peddlers. Look at the street lighting, accessibility, state of houses in the area, security cameras, and anything else that catches your eye.
Walk around: Get out of your car and walk around the block. You can talk to neighbors, introduce yourself and get more information.
Buying your first home is a huge milestone and it’s understandable that you want to get it done fast. However, such enthusiasm can lead to poor decisions including the wrong choice of neighborhood. You can’t change a location even if your house is beautiful. With this in mind, focus on neighborhoods more even as you scour the listings for that dream first home. Your real estate agent has a lot of information on the local market and is an invaluable asset when scouting for an ideal location.
Communicate your idea about the perfect neighborhood and your real estate agent will help locate such a neighborhood in their city. Want to learn more tips? Check out the best first time home buying course in town and start your journey towards homeownership today!