There is something all buyers should think about when embarking on a search for their next home. Unfortunately, the media is not helping them out one bit.
I take that back, the message that buyers should figure out how much they can afford before looking for a home is getting through and most buyers either have a pre-approval letter or ask for a lender recommendation because they’ve pre-qualified themselves online. It’s the search for the home that they’re getting backwards.
Buyers are coming to their first meeting with a list of things they want in their next home. The list often includes things like, open floor plan, island in the kitchen, more closet space, bright sunroom, cozy attic loft or backyard fire-pit. All things they’ve seen on TV or online and have decided they want. What they haven’t figured out is where they want to live.
Location, Location, Location
In a post titled, How to Buy a Home, I explain that when you start to search for your next home, you have to start with location. After you select the location you look at the neighborhood, then the lot and then the house. When buyers consider location they often start with their commute to and from work and decide how long of a commute they can handle. They consider transportation options, and then draw a radius around their place of work marking the area within their desired commute timeframe. This initial search often results in a pretty large area that including many neighborhoods, many of which the buyer may be unfamiliar. It’s the neighborhood evaluation where many buyers get stuck.
So how do you evaluate a neighborhood. Where you live should reflect your lifestyle. These questions will help you find the best community for you.
Questions to ask when considering at a neighborhood
How is the commute?
If the neighborhood is within your desired commute time and offers convenient transportation for you, this is a neighborhood to consider. If you answered no to this question, there is really no need to go further.
Is it convenient to my friends and family?
Will your friends come to your new home in this neighborhood? Is it convenient for them to visit with public transportation or can they drive and easily park? Over the years, I’ve noticed that this question is often overlooked and when it is, people may regret their choice. For other buyers, this factor may not really matter to them as much because they are in a community where they are the one who does the traveling.
Make a list of activities you engage in frequently and the stores, restaurants, gyms, or parks you visit regularly. How long would it take you to travel from each neighborhood you’re considering to engage in your most common activities. Does this neighborhood offer good substitutes to your current local favorites?
Do I feel safe?
Read the crime report in your local paper or find the county crime reports online on my community page. Consider not only the number of crimes but also the type (violent or non-violent) and trend. (Is crime going up or down?). Many websites will map out where the crime is happening so you can see what is happening and where. You can also look online to see if there are any sex offenders registered nearby.
How’s the local economy?
Check with your local economic development office to see if household income and property values in the neighborhood are stable or rising. What is the ratio of owner-occupied homes to rentals? Apartments don’t necessarily diminish value, but they indicate a more transient population. Are there vacant businesses or homes that have been on the market for months? Check news sources to find out if new development is planned.
Is it a good investment?
Think about how long you expect to live in this next home. Ask your local real estate professional, about price appreciation in the neighborhood. Although past performance is no guarantee of future results, this information may give you a sense of how a home’s value might grow. Your agent also may be able to tell you about planned developments or other changes coming to the neighborhood — such as a new school or highway — that might affect its value.
What about the neighbors?
Once you’ve narrowed your focus to two or three neighborhoods, go and get a feel for what it might be like to live there. Take notes: Are homes tidy and well maintained? Are streets bustling or quiet? How does it feel? Pick a pleasant day if you can, and chat with people working or playing outside. Visit the local coffee shop or bar and meet your potential neighbors.
What’s the school district like?
Whether or not you will have school-age children while you live in this home, the success and reputation of the local public schools can affect resale value. Look on my community page for links to the local public school districts. They provide information on test scores, class size, the percentage of students who attend college, and special enrichment programs. If you have school-age children, visit schools in neighborhoods you’re considering.
What about the home owner association or condo association?
Buying a condo or a home in a home owner’s association means you and your neighbors will have to follow some rules. It also means you may be paying for some amenities or services. If you want to build a fence and notice that no other house in the community has a fence, you should ask if fences are allowed in the neighborhood.
Are there homes in this neighborhood that I can afford?
It’s fun to explore neighborhoods and your best bet when searching for a home is to make sure the neighborhood has homes that are within your price range. Download my personalized real estate mobile app here: http://app.kw.com/KW2GQFKE9 to see if there are homes you can afford within a neighborhood.
If you are interested in finding the best homes, at the lowest prices, with the best terms for your personal wants and needs, give me a call to Get Started.