If you're in the market for a new home, you'll also be looking at the neighborhood. In fact, the character and amenities of the neighborhood may be as important to the property value as the house itself. Whether you're looking for a neighborhood with large houses and expansive lawns, or a modern condo in a thriving downtown area, there are characteristics that make up a great living area. Wondering what to look for? We suggest the following:
1. People are out on the streets:
A good sign of a neighborhood’s vitality and safety is seeing people on the sidewalks, children riding bikes and youngsters walking to school. Being able to leave home without your car keys and walking or bike riding to the market, coffee shop or restaurant is a wellness booster and contributes to a sense of community. If walking is important to you, look up an address or zip code on the Walk Score website to get a “walkability” rating.
2. School test scores are strong:
Ask any parent with school-age children and he or she will tell you that the quality of the school system is one of their top priorities when choosing a neighborhood. Living in an area with a much sought-after school system raises your property value, so be sure to check your school district scores and district boundaries. Read written reviews, test scores and other school data at greatschools.org.
3. Ownership is high:
Neighborhoods with high homeownership rates are more stable. In addition, longtime residents typically look out for one another, which encourages safety and low crime rates. You can find pertinent information such as home values, environmental hazards and crime ratings at homefacts.com.
Homes located close to major employers and in city centers are usually in high demand. From commuting to work to running out for a gallon of milk, the proximity of the places where you travel most can make a significant difference to your quality of life. When considering a new neighborhood, ask yourself how much time you’re willing to spend behind the wheel. Need some help? Calculate your commuting time at smartasset.com.
5. You like it:
Get a feel for the neighborhood by attending open houses, walking around and spending time in restaurants and coffee shops. It’s also important to visit the neighborhood at night and on weekends to get the complete picture. Some experts recommend visiting at least three different times of the day to get a better idea of the smells (sewage problems, stagnant lake), sights and sounds of your proposed location. For example, if you visit at lunch, it will most likely be relatively quiet since children will be at school. Visit again on Saturday afternoon to get a more accurate reading of an area’s noise and activity level. Looking for one of the best places to live in the US? Visit areavibes.com.
Block watches and neighborhood meetings are signs of a neighborhood committed to fighting crime and of a tight community. But don’t rely on anecdotal information - get the hard facts about any problems in the neighborhood by checking municipal police department websites for statistics and asking your real estate agent for information. Read up on crime and other reports at NeighborhoodScout.com.