As you go house-hunting, it’s important to know the features of your ideal home—the style, size, number of rooms, age, and special amenities are some of the most important. But you also need to consider the neighborhood. The people and places that surround a home can make a big difference to your living experience there. Certainly, location is the biggest concern. You probably have your short list of areas that fit your needs. But even when you find the one that’s close to your job and quality schools, you need to do a bit more research to make sure your new neighborhood will fit well with your lifestyle. Take a walk. Don’t just drive around the area. Get out and walk. Listen to the sounds. Is major road noise traveling farther than you expected? Are there any strange odors in the air? Maybe there’s a wastewater treatment plant a bit too close to your new home. When you’re walking around, you’ll notice details that you might miss in a car. Look more closely at how your neighbors care for their yards. How’s the curb appeal? And how do the curbs, sidewalks, and streets look? This will provide valuable insight into the care that is given to the neighborhood. If you have a dog, take him for a walk. See how other people react, so you can gauge how pet-friendly this community is. Knock on a few doors. Introduce yourself to neighbors. Let them know you’re considering a particular home, and ask what they know about the house. Has it been well cared for? How does the community’s homes fare in storms (snow, wind, heavy rain)? If there’s a Homeowners Association, how effective is it? How stringent are the restrictions? How secure is the area? If your potential neighbors aren’t forthcoming, it’s a good sign that you shouldn’t be expecting a homemade pie when you move in. Revisit at different times. You might initially tour the home during the day, when many people are at work. Go back in the early evening so you can see the activity level when more residents are home. Are there lots of kids riding their bicycles? Are families outside grilling? Do you see happy homeowners enjoying their yards? Inspect the safety. If you aren’t familiar with an area, learn about the crime rate. You can type in the community, zip code, or address on various websites to learn more about the criminal activity in your desired area. Are the streets well lit at night? Is there a neighborhood watch program there? Visualize your life here. Imagine yourself driving into the neighborhood, into your driveway, and walking into your home. Picture yourself working and relaxing in your yard. Think about finding that favorite restaurant down the street. Consider that quick trip to the grocery store to pick up a few ingredients. How does it feel? Can you see a happy life in this neighborhood? Remember, a home can be made even better in the right community. And it can be a nightmare in the wrong one. Before you invest in a new home, spend a little time getting to know the neighborhood.