Where we choose to settle down and plant our roots is just as important as the home in which we cultivate our lives. A happy home is often so because of where the home is physically located. As homebuyers it is therefore equally as important to note that not only are you buying a home, but in essence you are buying a part of your neighborhood.
Where your home is located is equally as important as your home itself. Whether you are a first time homebuyer or are relocating to another part of the country, it is essential not only to look at the homes for sale but to take a close look at your potential future town and neighborhood. We tend to have these romanticized, pre-conceived notions of just how our perfect home will be and it is therefore imperative to pay attention to everything that surrounds your dream home.
Buy with your head as well as your heart. I recently spoke with Betty Shepard, a Realtor with Prudential Fox and Roach in Mount Laurel, New Jersey who told me that “buyers tend to be too emotional when they are shopping for their home. It’s important to look at the purchase of a new home from an investment standpoint.” She states the importance of researching various neighborhoods of interest. “Find out what the housing market is like in your particular area or areas of interest,” Shepard suggests. Take note to see whether a particular area is on a financial incline or decline. With the information gathered a home buyer will be able to assess whether their purchase will turn out to be a good financial investment.
Take advantage of the internet. Put aside some time to do some research online. Your realtor’s website could be a valuable source of information about your town and all that it has to offer, as well as information on the schools and their performance and ranking in the state. Also be sure to visit your town’s website if there is one.
Visit your new neighborhood or town. Take the time to spend some time in the towns of particular interest. Get to know the feel and the lay of the land. This may be harder to do if you are in the midst of a work-related relocation, but if you can, do try to at least walk around the downtown area and drive through the neighborhoods. If you have children with busy weekend schedules, this may be particularly hard to do, but it can also be crucial to finding the areas that offer the best for you and your family. If you can, try out a local restaurant, do some window shopping and talk to the locals to get a sense of what they think makes their town so special.
Drive through during different times of the day. Shepard thinks it is particularly important to drive through neighborhoods of interest at various times of the day. The neighborhood is lovely during the quiet afternoon, but is it still quiet and serene during rush hour or at night? “I was researching potential neighborhoods for a client of mine and I decided to drive back to this one particular neighborhood at night and I was surprised at how many trucks were parked on the streets. I knew at that point that my clients and I would have to re-direct our focus,” she told me.
Make a list. Make a list of what’s important to you. Just as you make a list of what you would like to have in your home, make a list as to what you would like to have in your neighborhood – be sure to note what’s crucial and what you can sacrifice. Do you have a family or do you plan on starting one? Is the school system important to you? If you are a parent you may want to arrange for you child or children to visit the school and to meet with the principal. Just as neighborhoods differ in personality, no two schools are exactly alike. Will you or your spouse be commuting to work? Do you need to live within a certain proximity to a highway or near a train station? Do you commute to a major city? If you do is there a limit to your travel time? For those of you who will be commuting, whether by car or train, to work, Shepard advises a trial run. Take the time to test out the commute. Will it be doable or will it simply take too long?
Consider your lifestyle. Another important thing to take into factor is lifestyle. Are you and your family active? Is it important that you are in a neighborhood that is good for walking, running or bike riding? Do you need to be near areas of cultural interest such as museums, universities, restaurants and shopping? How important is it to you that you are near a grocery store, bank and gas station. These might seem like small issues, but to a busy mother of a large family, proximity can be everything.
Look all around the outside of your home. Pay attention to your surroundings. “I tell my clients to pay as much attention to the outside of their home as they do to the inside,” says Shepard. “Be sure to ask yourself questions like what is the outside like? What are the neighbor’s properties like? Are the neighbors too close for comfort, or would you like your neighbors to be closer? Pay attention to everything – all the small details.” Often when you are buying a home you are buying into a neighborhood. If you can, take the time to talk to neighbors. Do they have children? Do you have children? Are these people you can see yourselves getting along with or even becoming friends with? Hopefully, after all the long hours of research and leg-work you will not only find your dream home, but the perfect neighborhood to best suit your interests and your lifestyle.