What Makes a Good Neighborhood?
When you buy a house, you also invest in the neighborhood that surrounds it. The identity of a neighborhood may be as important to property values as the individual properties themselves. In a “planned community”, strictly controlled architecture governs a carefully crafted identity block after block. In a rural town, tree-lined streets and an old-fashioned town square preserve a disappearing way of life. In a large city, an older neighborhood's ethnic history has shaped its character and often drives its rejuvenation. It's important to know where a neighborhood has been - and where it's going - before you decide to buy.
1. Start with Statistics
It's now possible to get valuable neighborhood statistics online. Crime statistics, school scores and demographic information are all readily available. Check the village websites for specific information on the town as a whole. Park Districts are important and so are the schools in a particular community so study these carefully. Demographics can now be found by zipcode here.
2. Check with the City or Village Hall
You can get any kind of town planning document from your town or county's zoning and/or planning authorities. If you want to be sure that the rural hideaway you just bought stays rural, check with these officials. They start planning large projects like major road construction years from the actual start date.
3. Research the Resale Potential
The quality of the neighborhood will play a big role in your home's resale value—whether you live in the least or most expensive house on the block. (It’s better to have the smallest house in the best community). Checkout the neighborhood for job growth and home appreciation numbers in the area you're interested in. Get a list of homes for sale in the neighborhood from your real estate agent to determine how many days they've been on the market. If properties haven't been selling quickly, find out whether the market is slow or if there are neighborhood issues that may make resale difficult.
4. How can I Find Neighborhoods on the Rise?
Start looking for tomorrow's hot neighborhoods right on the edge of today's most desirable, well-established neighborhoods. These tangential neighborhoods are frequently next in line to experience a surge in prices.
Look for these signs of increasing popularity:
- Multiple offers on homes for sale
- An increase in the number of buyers moving in from other areas
- An increase in the number of local residents trading up within the neighborhood
- A decrease in the percentage of renters
- Signs of remodeling
Get to Know the Community Yourself
It may sound like a cliché, but nobody knows a neighborhood like the people who live and work there every day. Visit a neighborhood on your own at different times of day and night. Talk to neighbors. Visit nearby schools and local businesses. Small local papers & the internet can be chock-full of information that gives you a feel for the neighborhood or community. If you depend on public transportation, find out how accessible it is in this area. Drive to and from the house from several different directions, so you see both the scenic and not-so-scenic routes. Plan how long it will take for your daily commute.
You're also going to find out that where your family & friends currently live is the best place to buy 'according to them'.
Do your own research & decide for yourself where you would like to live.