Your dream home may turn into a nightmare if it’s in the wrong neighborhood. Begin by thinking about the activities that are most important in your daily life: place of worship, clubs, yoga class, the theater, favorite shops, and markets, for example. As you look at various neighborhoods, consider how a move would affect your participation in the activities you enjoy the most.
If you have — or plan to have — children, you should look carefully at the local school district. The website InsideSchools.org offers a comprehensive and independent look at city schools. Even if you don’t use the local public school, choosing a home in a good school district may improve your home’s value if you decide to sell at a later date.
If your children are enrolled in a private school, consider how your move will impact their daily commute.
Talk to your buyer’s agent about average home prices, vacant properties, the average length of time properties remain on the market, and whether price trends are increasing and declining in the neighborhoods, you are considering. This will help you identify desirable locations that will enhance and protect your home investment.
Research crime statistics in neighborhoods you like. Look at both the number and type of crimes that are reported, and whether the numbers are increasing or decreasing. Try to determine if crimes are clustered in a specific area, such as a retail outlet.
Stop by the local city economic development office and get statistics on average income and property values for your desired neighborhoods, and if they have increased or decreased over time. Find out how many properties are owner-occupied versus rental units. As a general rule, areas with a higher ratio of owner-occupied homes will have higher property values.
Once you’ve selected a few neighborhoods, plan a visit to walk—not drive—around. Are the homes well maintained? Are the streets clean and quiet? Consider striking up a conversation with a potential neighbor working or playing outside, and ask her how she likes the neighborhood.
Try to visit the property at night and take a walk to a nearby restaurant and back again, as if you were living in the home.
In many cases, the ideal neighborhood will just “feel” right when you visit, and having all the relevant statistics and information will support your decision.