Nothing sets the tone for a new home quite like the neighborhood where it’s located. Whether you’re after a sense of community and streets where your kids will feel safe, if you want nothing more than privacy and retreat from the place you call home, or if your goal is a hip and vibrant setting that’s up as late as you are, one thing remains true—your neighborhood is the most important factor in determining what your experience will be.
That’s why most real estate experts and your moving company such as Cord Moving and Storage agents for North American Van Lines with offices everywhere in the world suggest you investigate your neighborhood thoroughly before you buy.
> Look at the Stats: You can start by looking at the statistics for your neighborhood, most of which can be found online or with your county clerk’s office. Things like average home prices, annual property taxes, crime statistics, and school ratings will tell you more than you think.
> Read the Weather Reports: No, really. It sounds like such a small thing to check the local weather, but you’d be surprised at what a difference regular rain and/or sunshine can make. Even within cities, temperatures can vary dramatically, especially if there are a lot of changes in altitude or wide open spaces. For example, living on top of a hill in a place where it regularly snows can be dangerous if you’re not used to navigating the roadways.
> Subscribe to the Paper: If possible, take out a subscription to the local and/or community paper. The police beat is a usually a great pulse on a neighborhood, and you can also see what kinds of issues other people living in your area care about. Online neighborhood blogs can also be helpful for this kind of information.
> Visit during Peak Times: Almost all neighborhoods look cozy and inviting in the warm glow of a summer evening. They also seem serene in the middle of the day, when kids are at school and people are taking advantage of the weather to do a spot of gardening. However, you’ll be living in this house 24/7. Visit during traditionally “difficult” times, including rush hour, late at night, on busy football game weekends, and right after school gets out.
Patronize Area Businesses: No matter where you live, you almost always use the nearest and most convenient services to get by. Stop by the coffee shops, grocery stores, gas stations, and even the local police precinct to see for yourself what they’re like.
The best thing you can do to get a feel for your potential new neighborhood is, of course, to talk to the neighbors. Since you’ll likely be spending quite a bit of time with these people in the near future, it never hurts to get their take on the area and hear directly from those who are invested in the community what it’s like to live there.