Whether buying or renting, you should be choosy about the neighbourhood you move into. And if you have a family, there are even more factors to consider. So before you move, research your options; get to know the area, spend some time on its streets, in its cafes and walk along its sidewalks. Just like any relationship, feel it out before you move just to make sure it's a good fit.
You can't judge a book by its cover, nor a neighbourhood by its looks. Ultimately, you want to buy a house that will still be in a desirable place to live 10 or 15 years from now. Depending on your own particular needs and tastes, some of the following factors may be more important considerations than others:
- Style of homes
- Quality of schools
- Property values
- Crime rate
- Future construction
- Proximity to: schools, employment, hospitals, shopping, public transportation, cultural activities, highways, beaches, parks, shopping, recreation and spiritual or community organizations (churches, temples, mosques, etc.)
If you’re a first-time buyer with limited financial resources, it’s a wise purchasing strategy to buy a home that meets your primary needs in the best neighbourhood that fits within your price range.
You can maximize your home purchase location by incorporating some of the following strategies into your neighbourhood search:
- Look for communities that are likely to become "hot neighbourhoods" in the coming years. They can often be discovered on the periphery of the most continuously desirable areas.
- Look for a home in a good neighbourhood that is a bit farther out of the city. If commuting is a concern, purchase a home that is close to public transportation.
- Look at the neighbourhood demand by asking whether multiple offers are being made, whether the gap between the list price and sale price is decreasing, and whether there is active community involvement. You can also drive around neighbourhoods and see how many "sold" signs there are in a particular area.
- Look into purchasing a condominium or co-op, rather than a house, in a desirable neighbourhood. This way you may still be able to purchase in a prime area that you otherwise could not afford.
- Consider the safety issues such as traffic and how your kids are going to get to school. Paying attention to the local school system is valuable even if you don’t have children or plan to because many potential buyers are concerned with that issue. A thriving school district can be an indication of an area that will continue to rise in property values.
Of course, being too close to the school or boxed in by traffic jams can hurt the resale value of your home. You should also check how local students score on standardized tests to help determine the quality of the education taught in the area.
There are a few more sources that can provide assistance in learning about a neighbourhood:
- Go have dinner at one of the restaurants in the area. You can strike up conversations with some of the local patrons in that restaurant.
- Talk to local business owners. Even if they don't live in the area, they will have some insight into the neighbourhood and the people living there.
- Find out about owner-occupancy. Your agent is a good source for this kind of information. Ask about rental values - even if you plan to live in the home. Often tenants don't have the same pride of homeownership that owners do; thus properties are not always kept up.
- Check landscaping at major commercial developments. Is it kept up?
Visit local facilities such as malls, movie theatres, etc. Frequently these will be hang-outs for school-aged children and a good place to get an idea about neighbourhood kids.
- Drive through the neighbourhood and see if there are a lot of home remodelling projects going on. If so, it likely means homeowners are planning to stick around and are willing to invest more in their homes because they like the neighbourhood.
Once you have identified your preferred neighbourhood, make several visits to it on different days and times, coming back in the evening, on weekends, and during school time hours to see how the area changes. Observing the neighbourhood and the people who live and work in the area will give you a better understanding of whether it's a fit for you and your family. The more time you spend studying the location the less likely you are to discover something you really dislike about after you have bought the home.