Neighborhoods have unique personalities. Finding a neighborhood that suits your lifestyle is critical in the home buying process. It factors in the present and future value of a property, your safety and your well-being. For these reasons, picking the right neighborhood is more important than picking the right house. Think about it – you’ll likely choose a home because it’s close to work, your kid’s school or because it is walking distance to restaurants or stores you love. The last thing you want is to buy a home in an area no one wants to stay in! Check out our list below for ways to evaluate a neighborhood before buying.
It’s normal to worry about crime rates when you’re moving into a new neighborhood. Unfortunately, under the Fair Housing Act, real estate agents aren’t allowed to share these with potential home buyers, It’s up to you to do the research! Remember, you’re extremely unlikely to find a neighborhood where crime simply doesn’t exist at all. It’s important to really look at the big picture with these reports, especially in comparison to the overall population density. More people typically means more crime, although it doesn’t mean you’re going to be at a high risk yourself.
There are a few places to look when you’re trying to find crime statistics – CityProtect, AreaVibes, or Neighborhood Scout. All of these tools provide crime data for specific locations. A home’s value declines by 4% on average if it’s located within one-tenth of a mile of a sex offender’s residence. Family Watchdog is a tool that allows you to see if there are any registered sex offenders in the area. The United States Department of Justice also has a valuable tool to help you discover registered sex offenders. Visit the National Sex Offender Public Website (NSOPW) to determine if there are any sex offenders close to your potential new home. Similar to Family Watchdog, the NSOPW allows you to enter your address and see all of the sex offenders in the area.
The Walkability Score
Walkability scores are based on how easily walkable your neighborhood would be from a particular address, and factors in things like whether you could walk to the grocery store if you wanted to or whether stores and houses are spread out and not well connected through things like sidewalks and bike paths. Checkout www.walkscore.com to see how a neighborhood measures up. You can also take away some key insights about residential density, access to public transportation, and what a neighborhood’s general physical environment is like.
The best way to get a feel for a neighborhood is to experience it for yourself. A simple walk will show you a lot about an area. Are the sidewalks and parks are crowded with families? Are people there friendly when they pass by? Is there lots of trash lying around? Are the streets busy with cars and difficult to cross safely? Looking at pictures of a neighborhood won’t give you the full story of what you can expect. A walk allows you to immerse yourself in a neighborhood to get an idea of what you might be in for.
Some things that may demonstrate that your new neighborhood is safe and secure are:
Local community events going on in the neighborhood
Check out a neighborhood bulletin board either online or in local shops to evaluate the types of activities and events in the neighborhood.
Neighborhood watch groups
If your new neighborhood has a neighborhood watch group, it shows that people in the area take pride in the community. They want to keep it safe and make sure they report any suspicious activity.
Children playing outside
If parents are OK with letting their children play outside, this could be a good sign!
Does the neighborhood have family-owned restaurants, bookstores and novelty shops? When people feel financially secure, they are much more likely to help the community grow and flourish.
Successful communities pay attention to aesthetics. Typically they control signs, they plant street trees, they protect scenic views and historic buildings, and they encourage new construction that fits in with the existing community. When communities and community members adhere to the standards set forth in the bylaws governing the HOA (Homeowners Association) the area can continue to look beautiful throughout the year.
Maintaining these standards are important for both the community and the home owners, because it directly affects the property value. Realtors can quote statistics about the importance of curb appeal and how the look of a home or even the exterior of a condo unit can determine within seconds whether a buyer will even consider purchasing in that neighborhood. If each home has an exterior that is aesthetically different and causes the overall look of the neighborhood to be unpleasant, then buyers may move on. Maintaining the standard look is the difference between increasing or decreasing property value.
As we stated above, if you’re planning to buy then taking property value trends into consideration is important. These will tell you whether home prices in the neighborhood are going up, remaining consistent, or trending downwards—all of which are necessary to know in order to make a smart investment. You can learn a lot about the history and the potential of a neighborhood from examining how housing prices have risen or fallen over time.
Quality of the Schools
The quality of the public school system is very important for families. Neighborhoods located within a highly rated public school system are always in demand. If the school system is strong enough, people will move there simply for the schools. Use sites like GreatSchools or SchoolDigger to check the quality for yourself.
Employment & Commute
Are there major employers that attract high-paying jobs in the area? There will always be a demand for housing in a neighborhood with consistent employment opportunities.
In addition to offering a variety of employers, look at the commute times. Be realistic – is the commute manageable or do most residents have to drive a considerable distance to work each day? Additional hours spent commuting every day could pay a huge toll on your well-being overtime!
For comments or inquires contact:
Alex Khodadad, Broker, CPA
1930 Contra Costa Blvd.
Pleasant Hill, CA 94523
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