When shopping for a new home, it’s important to consider the neighborhood that surrounds it. Be sure to consider the following four questions about any neighborhood you're thinking about moving into:
1. What are your transit priorities?
Before you start looking at neighborhoods, consider how you’ll get around. If you like to walk whenever you can, find out how easy it is to get around on foot. Visiting in person is the most effective way to do this. Alternately, you can use a web-based tool like WalkScore to calculate a neighborhood’s walkability.
If you bike or take public transit, you should investigate the neighborhood’s infrastructure. You can do this by:
• Talking to residents
• Reading reviews of local transit and bike infrastructure
• Using Google Maps to estimate travel times
• Calculating proximity to highways and major roads
If you travel mostly by car, go online and calculate some of your commute times. Be sure to specify the time of day when checking, as these times can vary due to traffic. Don't forget to ask locals for their thoughts on ease of parking nearby.
2. What do you need to have nearby?
Make a “needs” list of the features you absolutely have to have nearby for a neighborhood to work for you. Maybe you need to be close to schools, away from busy roads, or near a dog park... it all depends on your lifestyle. Make a “wants” list of neighborhood amenities that would be nice to have, like sidewalks or a gym within walking distance.
Try to avoid considering neighborhoods that don't check off every box on your “needs” list. When it comes to your “wants” list, it’s important to be honest with yourself about where you're willing to compromise.
3. What’s the local culture?
You don’t want to end up with a culture clash between your household and the neighborhood, so take time to gauge what it’s like to live there:
• Pick up a local newspaper. What weekend events does it list?
• Ask local people what they do for fun.
• Look at notice boards in community facilities like libraries, coffee shops, etc.
You can also check out HomeFair’s City Profile, which offers demographic data like household size, diversity, commuting habits, and more. Imagine living there and consider whether you'd be happy.
4. How are property values trending?
Your new home is a big investment. Before you commit, learn what home prices are doing in the area. Visit a site like Neighborhood Scout and look at:
• Type and size of properties
• Ownership vs rental rates
• Median home values
Additionally, you should look for appreciation data to learn whether property values are stable, whether they've been trending up or down, and if anything signals an upcoming change. Ask an expert if you need help interpreting this data.
Making the Decision
As you learn about different neighborhoods, write everything down. Make note of what seems important to you and what doesn’t. If do this well enough, you'll know the right neighborhood when you see it.