Checklist for finding the right neighborhood for you Part Two
Now that you have your neighborhood priority list sorted, it’s time to start exploring! Here are some tips as you do your research on neighborhoods.
Google won’t hold all the answers, but it certainly gives you a place to start. See what is listed on community websites to get an idea of what the locals get involved in. What does Yelp say the biggest attractions are? Check on crime rates and local news reports. Doing a little preliminary research can also help give you some context if you actually go to the property.
Be a tourist
Park your car and walk around. Wander into local shops and stores to see what you think. If you can, try to experience some of the events to see how the community responds. Are there farmers markets on the weekends you can attend? Big marathons that block off the major roads twice a year? Getting your feet on the ground and exploring can give you a better idea of walkability as well as how many non-locals like to hang out in the neighborhood.
Check that commute time
Get in your car (or try out the public transportation) and travel around during the times of days you will most likely be commuting. If you don’t have the time or if you are relocating and not in the area, keep an eye on traffic apps. See how travel times change throughout the day to different areas around the neighborhood. Remember to check out traffic routes to important but not necessarily regular destinations, like the airport or the hospital.
Check out the schools
Ratings are a great place to start, but when you really start debating between schools it might be worth the trip to see the schools in person. Check out the school event calendars to see what the kids are working on. See if you can talk to someone from the district or one of the schools to asks some of your more specific questions.
Talk to the pros
If money is one of your biggest priorities, use your real estate agents and finances advisors to discuss your options. They might not all be able to give you specific numbers, but real estate agents will have a good idea of resale value and/or how much work the house will need once you move in. Look into property tax histories and loan options. When you’re putting that much of your money on the line, it never hurts to do your research.
Try to get your favorite foods
If you are a big Starbucks fan, see where the nearest locations are and how well run they are. If your favorite food is authentic Mexican, are there any restaurants nearby or only chains? If you love bar food, spend an evening at the local hangout (bonus points for getting to visit with some of the locals). If you love to cook meals at home that require harder to get ingredients, find out how far you have to travel to find a store that carries them?
Check out those neighborhood associations
Depending on what you want, neighborhood associations can be a blessing or a curse. If a potential neighborhood has an association, check out rules for fees, lawn maintenance, construction, noise levels, and pets. Better to know now than to be surprised by issues after your close on your home.
Keep an eye, ear, and nose out for red flags
While you are exploring, pay attention to your first impressions of the area. Are there a number of abandoned homes or buildings? Do you see any signs of vandalism? Are there an unusual amount of for sale or for rent signs? Visit the area during different times of day. Does the atmosphere change drastically at night? What sounds do you hear? Are there unpleasant odors wafting about? Neighborhoods can have a personality all their own, so listen to your instincts on whether or not one is the right fit.