You’re moving, but you’re not sure where to move. There are plenty of great spots in your town, your state, or, heck, even the world. But how do you go about choosing the perfect area for your lifestyle? An area that’s equal parts welcoming and laid back, that’s both close to everything you love but miles away from everything that drags you down—except for work. It has to be close to work.
Whether you’re moving across town or across country, it’s important to research multiple neighborhoods to find out which one feels most like home.
In today’s post, let’s talk about strategies for finding a neighborhood you’ll love. There’s nothing worse than buying a home and then realizing that you hate the neighborhood. With my help, you’ll be able to find your dream neighborhood (to go along with your dream home). Let’s go.
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1. Seeing is Believing
Let’s get superficial for a moment. Do you like the way the neighborhood looks? Are the lawns neatly manicured? Are the roads taken care of or do they have unsightly (and unsafe) bumps and potholes? Are the streets quiet or chaotic? Are people out and about enjoying the neighborhood and walking their dogs down the sidewalk? Is there a sidewalk?
Take a moment to consider what’s most important to you when it comes to the look and ambience of a neighborhood. Some of us like the hustle and bustle of an urban cityscape. Others much prefer the hushed melody of country living.
Whether you like nature’s orchestra of crickets, birds, and frogs or the distant hum of motorcycles, whirring sirens, and city sounds, there’s a perfect neighborhood for you—you’ve just got to be realistic about what appeals to you.
Do This: If you’re not sure which neighborhood to choose, take a daytime drive around your city through various neighborhoods and see which one resonates with you most. Make a note about why you like this particular neighborhood. Maybe you can identify with the people who live there—i.e. you’re around the same age or you both have (or don’t have) children. Perhaps you like the styles of the homes.
Then, take another drive through the neighborhoods you liked most—this time at night. Do you still like these neighborhoods? Do the neighborhoods feel safe? Are they well-lit? Are people out? Are the neighborhoods loud, are they quiet? Once again, take notes. But don’t make a decision yet until you follow the rest of the tips on this post.
2. Location, Location, Location
Consider this question:
If I lived in this neighborhood, how far am I from ________?
Fill in the blank with the places that are most important to you. Topping that list will probably be your work, your desired school (if you have kids), the homes of your friends and family, your favorite pastimes, and the nearest grocery store.
Even if you don’t want to live close to these places, you still want to know how far you are away.
If you’re not much into cooking, you’ll probably want to know about nearby restaurants that deliver. If you’re heavily involved in a local tennis club, it may dictate how far you’re willing to move.
Your lifestyle and hobbies will play a big role in deciding where you move.
Do This: Decide on your neighborhood must-haves. What are your non-negotiables? Maybe you want to be in walking distance of shops and restaurants. Maybe you’d like to live within the city’s best school district. Maybe you want to live in the same neighborhood as your family. Take an hour or two to write out what your ideal neighborhood gives you in terms of location. Get as specific as possible.
3. School’s In
We talked about this briefly earlier, but it’s such an important subject that I decided to dedicate an entire section to it. Finding the perfect school district is a bit like finding a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow, but there are tools to make it easier.
GreatSchools is a website that allows you to research by zip code to find the best and brightest schools.
But there’s only so much research you can do online. That’s why I recommend the following:
Do This: Jot down the top schools you’re interested in and then visit them. Set up a time when you can take a tour of the school. Most schools are happy to show you around. This way, you can get a feel for the facility—does it look up to date? Clean? Colorful? Safe? Are the staff attentive and friendly or grouchy and inhospitable? It matters—if they’re not friendly to you, they’re definitely not going to be friendly to your kids.
Find out important information, such as test scores, enrichment programs, after-school activities, and student to teacher ratios.
Are there parents around? Can you speak with them briefly and ask them about their experience?
4. Safety First
It’s hard to get a feel for the safety of a neighborhood just by driving around it during the daytime hours. Everything looks happier when it’s sunny and bright, but is there a seedy underbelly that gobbles up the night? Okay, that was pretty dramatic, but you know what I mean. You’ve got to know if crime’s a problem in the neighborhood.
Fortunately, that’s easy to find out. Use a site like Family Watchdog to find registered sex offenders in the area. For a broader sweep, you can use Crime Mapping to a diverse range of crime violations.
Image Courtesy of CrimeMapping.com
You can also go old school and contact the police department for a list of neighborhood statistics.
Here’s what to look for: See which types of crimes are most prevalent. Is it burglary, drug activity, sexual crimes? Also, is crime decreasing or increasing?
5. Is the Future Bright?
What is the future of your neighborhood? Is it on an upswing or are there tons of homes for sale, indicating a possible downturn in the local economy?
Ask your real estate agent about any developments in the area. Are there new jobs coming that may invigorate the local economy? Will there be new shops and restaurants coming to the area?
Consider the future saleability of your home. If the neighborhood is beautiful but dying, it may make more sense to look elsewhere.
6. Take it to the Streets
When you find a few neighborhoods that you like, it’s time to park the car and get out and mingle with the local residents. Ask them questions about the neighborhood. Most people are happy to share their honest opinions about where they live.
Be transparent. Explain that you’re looking to move to the area. There’s no need to keep this to yourself, and you may come away with new friends!
Keep the questions casual. Questions to ask may be:
- Is it usually quiet around here?
- What are the neighbors like?
- Are there a lot of people moving in or out?
- Is there anything fun to do around here?
- Are there lots of families with kids? Around what ages?
- Is the school around here any good?
Of course, I wouldn’t recommend asking these questions in rapid fire one after the other. No one wants to feel like they’re being interrogated. Instead, work one or two of your most important ones into your interactions with the local residents.
It’s time to find your perfect neighborhood. Even if you’re moving across country, you can still research the best areas by following these tips. If you need some advice on finding the neighborhood that suits you, contact me and let's talk.
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