Your home is your castle—or should be—but that doesn’t mean you have a moat to separate you from the others in your neighborhood. Unless you’re seeking total isolation, you need to choose the location along with the home.
Location, location, location! The endless battle cry of any real estate agent. So what do you look for? What do you need to know in order to find the right neighborhood for your family?
Before you even start looking, have an idea of what suits your needs for a community. Be clear on your priorities so you aren’t distracted by a dream home in the wrong neighborhood.
Schools and kid-friendly places. Do you have children? You’ll need to consider the schools, child care, recreation areas, and kid-friendly choices in the area. In addition to the quality of the education system, what kind of transportation is provided between the schools and the neighborhood you’re considering? You can find school reviews at greatschools.org.
Healthcare. How close will you be to a good hospital? What about walk-in clinics and other healthcare resources? Check out Healthgrades.com to see reviews of practitioners in the area.
Commute. How long is it going to take to get to and from work? Are there alternate routes that might give you relief during congested times? Drive through the area at different times to see how time and traffic varies. You might find out that your street is a popular shortcut during rush hour, which is not appealing for a family home.
Area development. What’s in the works for this neighborhood, such as new buildings, facilities roads? Is a new school planned across town? Is the local mall going to be turned into a sports center? Take the time to learn what your neighborhood and surrounding areas will look like in a few years.
Curb appeal. Drive through the neighborhood and notice the way that other homeowners tend to the exterior of their homes. Are the lawns and gardens well-kept? Are the yards free of extraneous discards? Is the paint peeling? Remember that your home value is impacted by those around you.
Social. If you want a family-friendly neighborhood, drive through and look for signs of families. Are kids playing in their yards and riding bikes? Do you see happy activity, like cookouts or a game of driveway basketball?
Feel. There’s no better way to get a true sense of a community than to walk along the streets. You’ll see details you might otherwise drive right by—from historic architecture to cracks in the sidewalk that need mending. You can discover what truly is within walking distance from your home. You’ll meet people and be able to gauge the friendliness. You can wander in and out of shops, admire the landscaping, and scope out places that just might become a family favorite.