It should be noted that when buying a house you are not just simply buying a structure where you are going to be cooking, sleeping, playing with your kids, or watching TV. Yes of course the house itself is important and should be evaluated carefully, but you are also investing in a neighborhood. Buying a home means you are putting your time, well being, and your money into a city, a street, and a neighborhood. Whether your like it or not, your presence is going to shape the dynamics of that neighborhood and in reverse, that neighborhood is going to shape how you live.
Only you can determine what is the right kind of neighborhood for you. Is walking important to you? Access to public transportation? Good schools? Local parks? Easy access to freeways or the airport? Do you like having close neighbors or do you prefer more space? How about parking? Do you want to be close to local restaurants and coffee bars?
So how does one go about deciding if a neighborhood is right for you? I mean sure, when it comes to the house you are buying its easy to take a tour, walk around, and envision what your future looks like in it, but a neighborhood is a much different thing all together and many of its characteristics might not be readily obvious.
Talk To The Neighbors
This is one that I highly recommend and it seems hardly anyone at all does it. The best source of information about a neighborhood isn’t going to be Google or the internet, it’s going to be people who actually live there! Ask someone who lives nearby what they like about the neighborhood and what they don’t. Find out if there are any local neighborhood associations or events that you might want to get involved in. Ask about the restaurants and shops and see what they recommend.
Besides, if you are ready to make an offer on a home it can’t hurt to introduce yourself to people who live nearby early. You might just make a new friend.
Visit day and night, weekday and weekend
Don’t just visit your prospective home during the day. Instead, go back several times to get a real sense of what it will be like to spend your life there. Is the street well lit at night? Are there noisy neighbors who party at odd ours? Are there too many cars parked on the street during the weekend? Maybe there is a loud dog that barks all night long.
These are things you are only going to find out if you spend the time going back to the property at random times during a wide variety of intervals.
Take A Walk
Even if leisurely strolls aren’t your thing, take at least one hour to tour the neighborhood on foot. You would be amazed at how much more you notice about a neighborhood using your own two feet as opposed to driving around in your car. Are there enough cross walks? Do people drive through the neighborhood too fast? Do people wave hello as you pass them on the sidewalk? Do you feel calm and relaxed or like you have to move about on foot in hurry?
Use The Internet
Finally, getting some basic information on the internet about your future neighborhood is helpful. Find out what the walk score is on your street and streets nearby. Look up Yelp reviews of the four closest restaurants and try to determine of you would enjoy going to them. Once you do that look up local reviews of other businesses you know you will frequent like the local veterinarian, grocery store, workout facility, library, etc. etc.
If you are really feeling like a sleuth you can even use the internet to find out how many properties in your neighborhood have been bought and sold, if there are any new construction projects on the horizon, and you can look up past crime statistics.