How to Pick a Neighborhood to Live In
The process of buying a home can be incredibly exciting. Imagining you and your family living in a new, better space where you can all enjoy yourselves is motivation enough to work through all the challenges of finding and buying a house. Let’s face it – knowing how to pick a neighborhood is important!
When you buy a home, you are buying more than just a building. You are purchasing a lifestyle. Where your home is located, the neighborhood that it is located will influence the lives of you and your family for as long as you live in that house. This makes choosing the right neighborhood an integral part of choosing the right home. So how do you pick a neighborhood?
When looking for a home, most people will settle on a town first and then start narrowing down some of the communities they feel best suited for their lifestyle. What some people don’t understand is that the neighborhood you choose can have a direct impact on what you pay for a home and ultimately the long term value that it holds. In most communities, there will be certain neighborhoods that have a particular “cache”.
They are well recognized as being ideal for re-sale due to their extreme popularity. There can be any number of reasons why certain neighborhoods carry a premium over others. A good local real estate agent should be able to the point of the differences for you. Below you will see some of the many considerations of what to look for when choosing a neighborhood.
Before you start to look for a home, one of the smartest things you can do is put together a checklist of all the things you want in a neighborhood. Look over your list and then prioritize the items. This will give you a better handle on ultimately figuring out exactly what it is you are looking for. I hope you enjoy these tips for picking a neighborhood you will love being a part of!
Choosing the Right Neighborhood for You
When you talk with your Realtor about the homes you want to look at, the neighborhood where each home is located should be a primary consideration. Here are a few things that you will want to think about when looking into areas. Some of these factors will be a positive influence while others not so much. When people ask how to choose a neighborhood, these are often the most important considerations.
- Schools – Schools are a big deal when it comes to real estate prices. A good school system can drive up property values and can insulate them against fluctuations in the market. However, this also means you can expect to pay a premium for a home that is located in an excellent school district.The quality of nearby schools is an important consideration for any home buyer. If you have children or plan on having them, you will naturally want them to have access to the best education possible. But even if you have no plans on having children, the quality of the nearby schools will still affect your property values. If you don’t have kids and schools are not important to you be sure you understand you will almost always pay more property taxes in areas where the schools are top notch. One thing worth noting is that some cities and towns have different school districts. What this means is the location of where a neighborhood is located can play a role in where your kids end up going to school. This is one reason why some areas can command more money than others in the same location. It’s a good idea to make sure the neighborhood you are choosing is in the school district you want for your kids.
- Crime and Safety – Everyone wants to live in a safe neighborhood. However, depending on your budget and the city you want to live in, you may not have the option of life in the safest neighborhood in your town. However, there are varying degrees of safety. Just because a home is not in the top neighborhood does not mean it is genuinely dangerous.You have a variety of options to examine the security of a neighborhood. There are websites where you can type in the address and see the crime history near the home. One really good site for this information is Neighborhood Scout. Neighborhood Scout checks the safety history of crime for most every city and town in America. The site will also compare the neighborhood you are considering to other communities nationwide so you can make informed decisions based on your families needs. Searching methods include overall crime rate, property crime rate, crimes per square mile and violent crime rate. You can also talk to your Realtor about a given neighborhood. Talking to your potential neighbors to get an idea of how safe they feel is another good option. Just make sure to do your research so you are not surprised after you move into your new home.
- Sidewalks & Street Lighting – These things often go hand in hand with safety. Most people love to have sidewalks and well-lit areas for their kids to be safe. While not having sidewalks isn’t the end of the world it is a nice feature.
- Highway Accessibility – Some neighborhoods are just easier to get to than others. Having easy access to the highway allows you to get across town and even to get out of the city much easier than if you don’t have road access. This can be a double-edged sword, though. Certain neighborhoods are located in high-traffic areas specifically because they have good highway access.If you have to commute to work every day, you will probably want highway access. If you work from home, this might not be as important. Either way, highway accessibility is a consideration when you are choosing a neighborhood.
- Major Conveniences – The close proximity to things like restaurants, shopping and grocery stores can make an area very appealing to individual home buyers. The easier it is to get to this stuff the less time you will need to spend in a car. If you are a commuter for work this can be especially important. After an hour in the car getting home from work, do you really want to take a 15 minute drive to get groceries? The ease in which you can get to major shopping and restaurants is always a major consideration among home buyers. All things being equal if you are in a town where one neighborhood is 5 minutes away from conveniences and another is 15 minutes away, the neighborhood with shorter commute almost always comes out on top. As a Realtor this is definitely one of the top questions I get from buyers who are relocating to the area. They want to know how far they need to go not only for a good restaurant but when they need to grab some milk and bread on a whim.
- Railroad Tracks – Railroad tracks nearby means you can potentially expect to listen to freight trains or commuter rail at all hours. The closer you are to the tracks the louder the noise will be. If you have ever been near a train as it blasts its horn while traveling through the city, you have a good idea of just how loud it can be around railroad tracks. When there are railroad tracks in close proximity to a home you are considering purchasing it is always a good idea to find out what the trains schedule happens to be. It might be a non issue, as the train could pass by the home the majority of time you are at work or on other occasions where it won’t bother you all that much. Checking on the trains schedule should be something you check with the owner and ask your real estate agent to verify. Your agent also should be able to give you a handle as to how much the tracks will affect the saleability of the home in the future.
- High Tension Lines – You may find a home in a neighborhood that is a real bargain. The only issue is that it’s located right next to major power lines. This could be a great deal, but there are reasons why the home is so cheap. Some people are concerned about the health risks of being so close to the electromagnetic output from high tension lines. There are in fact conflicting opinions of whether high tension power lines affect our health. Others just don’t like looking out their window at giant power line towers. Lets face it they are ugly. This will be a consideration from some buyers when choosing a neighborhood. It is another issues you will want to keep in the back of your mind when it comes to re-sale.
- Highway Noise – Like the noise from railroad tracks, the noise from nearby highways can be a real drawback for potential home buyers. Even with the large sound barriers many cities use, road noise can be off-putting for many. It is also a problem for home values. Most homes located next to the highway will not be as valuable as those located further away. And like railroad tracks, you can expect the noise to be an issue day and night. Sometimes people will settle for living near a highway because they can typically get much more bang for their buck in a home. Just be sure to realize when it comes time to sell your home you will also feel it in your wallet. Location is a key element in a homes market value and homes abutting highway typically do not fair as well.
- Walk-ability – Walk-ability indicates how easy it is to enjoy your neighborhood without a car. Can you walk to the nearest grocery store, restaurant or bar? This is becoming a major selling point for many people as they try to move away from driving everywhere. Walking feels good, relieves stress and gives young people options that they wouldn’t otherwise have. Homes in the heart of the city will naturally have greater walk-ability than those in the country. However, newer developments are focusing on increasing walk-ability as a selling point. If this is important to you, you can probably find a home that offers good access to the things you want on foot. Looking to do a little research on how quickly you can walk to major conveniences in your city or town? Take a look at the excellent website know as Walk Score. Walk Score has graded most neighborhoods around the country so you will find it is a terrific tool.
- Access to Train – While being next to train tracks is usually not a favorable location on the flip side is having access to a train for commuting purposes. Here in my area of Massachusetts have the ability to access the Boston commuter rail is a significant benefit. There will always be those people who despise fighting the early morning and late afternoon rush hour commute. Being located where you can get easy access to a train can be a major benefit. Franklin Massachusetts is a town in my area that is extremely popular for many home buyers in large part because they have access to the train to Boston. Without the use of the train, the commute can quickly approach an hour at high volume traffic times.
- Nightlife – Does the neighborhood offer you easy access to the nightlife in the area? Some home buyers like to experience their city’s nightlife and want a home that provides this. Ideally, the neighborhood will be within walking distance or offer mass transit options so the bars and clubs can be enjoyed safely without the need for driving. If you are out in the suburbs, this may not be even on your radar, but if looking in the city, some buyers see this as an attraction.
- Parks and Playgrounds – Adults and children alike need access to green space periodically. If you have children, you will want a neighborhood that offers a playground nearby. Even if you do not have kids, it is still nice to be able to take a walk in the park or walk the dog through a natural environment. Often buyers gravitate toward being located in the center of town. Not only for the ease in which they can access most conveniences but also for the enjoyment of the natural beauty that a town common or park may offer.
- The Neighbors Themselves – This one may sound funny, but it is a good idea to do a little bit of research on the neighbors who are directly abutting the property you are considering. This doesn’t mean you need to stake the place out, but the last thing you want is to get stuck living next to a lousy neighbor that will cause you problems when it comes time to sell. Real Estate agents can usually pick up on whether or not there is an issue next door that could cause a re-sale problem. You can also check in with the local police department as well to see if any of the surrounding properties have had disturbances that may concern you.
- Dog Parks – For dog owners, this is an important consideration. Dogs have so much energy it is important to be able to let them run off-leash on occasion. In most cities and towns this can only be done legally in prescribed areas. If you have a dog, you probably want access to an off-leash park within a reasonable distance. This is part of the advice I have given with my tips for moving with pets.
- Churches and Synagogues – Those home buyers that hold religion as an important part of their life and culture like to know where the nearest church and synagogue is located. This, in fact, could be a major consideration for how some choose a neighborhood.
There are a few other things that may or may not weigh on your mind when trying to choose an appropriate neighborhood. These are what I would consider being secondary considerations although, for you, they may be priorities.
- Being close to a library.
- Easy access to a local YMCA.
- Close to a major gym such as Golds.
- A Starbucks or Dunkin Donuts nearby.
- A state park or lake.
- The beach.
Other Resources on Choosing a Neighborhood
- How to choose a neighborhood via HGTV Front Door.
- What are the questions to ask before choosing a condominium neighborhood via Maximum Real Estate Exposure.
- What factors should I consider when choosing a neighborhood via About.com.
Use these additional resources to help you choose the best neighborhood for you and your family!
About the author: The above Real Estate information on what to look for when choosing a neighborhood was provided by Bill Gassett, a Nationally recognized leader in his field. Bill can be reached via email at [email protected] or by phone at 508-625-0191. Bill has helped people move in and out of many Metrowest towns for the last 29+ Years.
Thinking of selling your home? I have a passion for Real Estate and love to share my marketing expertise!
I service Real Estate sales in the following Metrowest MA towns: Ashland, Bellingham, Douglas, Framingham, Franklin, Grafton, Holliston, Hopkinton, Hopedale, Medway, Mendon, Milford, Millbury, Millville, Northborough, Northbridge, Shrewsbury, Southborough, Sutton, Wayland, Westborough, Whitinsville, Worcester, Upton and Uxbridge MA.