Deciding where to live is almost as important as picking your future home. After all, your new community is more than a physical location. You're joining a new community. It's a big deal.
Every family is different, so it's important to keep those unique needs in mind. Here are a few tips to understanding what matters most to you and your family – and choosing the right neighborhood to fit.
Make a Community Wishlist
You might already have created a wish list for your dream home. Now, do the same for your ideal neighborhood. While you might not be able to find everything you want in a neighborhood that matches your price point and location, this exercise helps you figure out what's most important.
Ask yourself questions like…
Do I want a busy, more active area?
Does my family prefer quiet streets and secluded houses?
How important is it for us to be near parks? (Consider too hiking trails, running paths, lakes, sport courts, and playgrounds.)
How close would we like to be to restaurants? To shopping areas?
How close would we like to be to a fitness center, church, library, or the local community center?
How far are we willing to commute to work or school?
Do we need to be near public transportation?
Do we want dedicated bike lanes?
Should the neighborhood have other families like ours? (Do you have young kids? Would you prefer to be near families? Or would you prefer an older community?)
Do we want to be physically close to our neighbors?
Do we want a close-knit community?
Get to Know the Schools in the Area
Families are particularly interested in learning about the schools in the area. A good school can make or break a neighborhood for many people with children. Consider looking into class size, student performance, graduation rate, and transportation. Plan to move to an area with a school that fits your children's needs and your family's lifestyle.
Even people without children can look at local school systems as an indicator of the neighborhood.
Consider Crime Rate
You can find out the crime rate in just about any neighborhood simply by searching online. It's a good idea to check out an area's crime rate, especially if you're not familiar with it at all. Keep in mind, a higher crime rate in the past doesn't mean the neighborhood isn't safe. Only look at current crime rates.
Depending on the city, you can likely find very detailed crime reports online. You can also reach out to the local police department for information about the neighborhood you're considering. You can also find out if the neighborhood community is actively involved in managing the area's safety.
Take A Walk Around the Neighborhood
You've found a neighborhood that matches most of your criteria. The best way to get to know the area is by walking around! Pay attention to the amount of greenery (in yards and boulevards) and the level of traffic. If your family enjoys going on walks together, make a mental note of how easy it is to travel by foot – are the sidewalks in good shape? Is there enough space to walk comfortably?
You can also use this time to meet the people living in the area. You can learn a lot about a neighborhood just by striking up a conversation while out and about.
Understand Housing Value – and Your Budget
Once you've selected a neighborhood or two, look at the homes in the area. Pay attention to the lot sizes, the typical square footage of homes, the age of homes, and the amount of yard houses have. Find out the value of places in the neighborhood and talk to your real estate agent about the neighborhood's history.
You can check websites like Zillow to see housing costs as well as purchase history. This information can give you an idea of how much home values have changed over time – and how much they might change in the future. You can also get a sense of how tax rates have changed in the area.
Then, figure out if you can afford the area based on your budget. Be sure to add those property tax values to this amount. You don't want to pick an ideal neighborhood if it means compromising on your dream home, so keep that in mind.
Finding the ideal neighborhood for your dream home isn't always easy. But by taking a few precautions and planning ahead, you're well on your way to joining the perfect community.