What is the best method for deciding where to live? It's about the place, people, activities and what goes on in the neighborhood. How do you find the best spot for your family?
Here are some things that might sway where you choose live.
Education: There's not just one type of school anymore. Pick one - private, charter, magnet, public - a fairly wide option from which to choose. The public systems typically adhere to district boundaries in order to enroll; though since some states are reconsidering changing this method, you will want to be very clear on it when looking for a house. Visit schools in specific areas where you can visualize living, where your kids might attend school. Ask to check out the rooms your kids may be assigned, and if possible have a conversation with the teachers. Do your homework on ratings, teachers, administration, and curriculum, anything that will help with a decision. Don't be afraid to ask questions.
Local Economy: If your choice of places to move to is dictated by your job, the employer will probably have a good amount of data on the area economy. If you're moving to be closer to family and will need to find a job, call the local Chamber of Commerce, research the community online - checking all the surrounding areas too. What's the success for employment? What's the unemployment rate? Review recent companies, large and small, that might have moved to the area. What industries have been in the community and offer steady employment with no layoffs? What is the average timeframe for a house to sell? Are home prices rising, dipping or holding? Attend a local event, such as a farmers market, and talk to vendors or consumers. Are they friendly, comfortable, willing to share the community news?
Investment: Everyone wants the purchase of a home to be a good investment. These past few years, people have experienced some disappointment. Homeownership is at least partially about making an investment. Over time you hope to build equity in your home, allowing you to have not only a large asset, but also the ability to "move up". Be aware of foreclosed homes in neighborhoods, as they tend to pull values down. Understand some neighborhoods appreciate more quickly than others.
Home Values: Are the homes going up in value? Today's market is still edgy and areas have experienced depreciation. All of this is a direct result of the recent recession, but is typically not the norm. Generally, the value of homes increase about 5 percent per year. Ask your local real estate agent for the stats on past appreciation rates.
Neighborhood: What does the prospective area look like? Drive around, check the yards and the homes. Do houses and yards look well tended - nice paint, in good repair, mowed, manicured? The neighborhood should show care and attention. If there's junk around, lawns unkempt, paint peeling, think about whether this will be a good investment as well as a safe place to live. Real estate agents often say "It's location, location, location."
Research: Be aware of local crime rates. Safety for you, your family and your property should be of utmost importance when buying a home.
Amenities: Define what your family likes to do and look for those options. Some want walkabiity to restaurants, parks, and shopping. If you look for entertainment close by, check it out. What works for you? Look for the churches you might frequent or gyms to work out at. Consider all the options you might want and those you will need.
You can find a great place that fits you now and grows with you in the future. If you review options and do your research, you can make a wise choice.