Neighborhoods: Choosing the Right Neighborhood... by Jonathan Lammers
To find the right neighborhood, focus on areas that meet your needs, budget and personal taste. You should also spend time talking with your real estate agent and researching different neighborhoods before making a final decision.
Qualities of a Good Neighborhood
Good neighborhoods share many traits in common, including convenient access to employment, shopping, transit and schools.
Work with your real estate agent to identify areas that meet your personal needs and budget, and then follow up by visiting the neighborhood and talking with residents.
Don't write off areas that may be in the process of improving.
In new developments, research the zoning for nearby areas.
Whether it's a tree-lined street of historic homes or a new golf course community in the suburbs, good neighborhoods often share common traits such as access to employment, shopping, transportation and good schools. Other important factors include things like parks, low crime and evidence that residents take pride in their area. Quality neighborhoods have residents that are interested in improving both their neighborhood and community.
How do I Find the Right Neighborhood for Me?
Your ideal neighborhood should be a place where you feel at home and that makes your daily life easier to manage. But how do you find the right place--especially if you're relocating from out of town? A great place to start is with your real estate agent, who can help you identify areas that fit your needs, while also providing advice about schools, community services and property taxes. If you don't have an agent, try using the "Find an Agent" feature of this website. Agents who advertise in Homes & Land Magazine are great resources for information about their communities.
Get to Know the Neighbors
One of the best ways to research a neighborhood is by simply walking down the street and introducing yourself to residents. Ask them what they like best about the area, and if there are any problems you might not be aware of. Do they have a neighborhood association? Is there a strong sense of community? Are homes holding their value? You should also visit prospective neighborhoods at various times of day. Some areas may not feel as safe at night, or you may find that your quiet neighborhood turns into a speedway during the weekday rush hour commute.
Important Neighborhood Considerations
Convenience to employment, shopping and entertainment
Adequate police and fire protection, with good access to hospital and medical facilities
Active neighborhood association and/or neighborhood watch program.
Pride of ownership, with well-maintained properties. In transitional areas, look for evidence of people renovating properties and new businesses opening up.
Reasonable traffic patterns, or access to mass transit. Be wary of areas that are heavily used by cut-through traffic.
Quality schools and availability of daycare
Parks, bike trails and other recreational facilities.
Steadily appreciating property values
More homeowners than renters
For new developments, complimentary zoning of nearby areas.
With today's renewed interest in urban revitalization, many areas that were once run down are being transformed into vibrant and fashionable neighborhoods. But because these areas may still have pockets of blight, they are often referred to as "transitional" neighborhoods. As a potential homebuyer in a transitional area, you should carefully evaluate the neighborhood by talking with your real estate agent about important factors such as infrastructure improvements, property values and safety issues. Positive evidence of revitalization includes homes being painted, landscaping improvements, and signs that businesses are relocating to the area.
What if I'm Interested in a New Subdivision?
Because they haven't had time to fully mature, new developments are often a bit more difficult to research than established neighborhoods. Nevertheless, many of the same factors (e.g. employment, transit, schools) that apply to traditional neighborhoods are just as important in newly developed areas. You should also pay special attention to the zoning and transportation planning for any undeveloped areas nearby. After all, you don't want your peaceful home in the suburbs to later end up next door to the parking lot for a new shopping center.