If you’re in the market to buy a home, you’ve probably been concerning yourself with the features of your new house. How much space do you need? How many bedrooms and bathrooms? Does it have a first floor laundry? What about a patio or deck? That’s in addition to everything related to the mortgage.
All of these are necessary questions to answer, but the house itself is only part of what makes a home. There’s a saying in real estate that it’s all about location, location, location. It’s cliché, but there’s a lot of truth in it.
This post is all about how you can evaluate a neighborhood to make sure it’s right for you. Everyone has different priorities, so there are a lot of factors to consider.
I’m not suggesting you give each of your potential new neighbors a 40-question survey covering everything from their favorite musical genre to their feelings on the Oxford comma, but there are certain questions you probably want to ask about the neighborhood when you evaluate houses.
For example, if you have a young family, are there other young families in the neighborhood? Will the kids have plenty of boys and girls to play with or will you have to drive to playdates or the park?
On the other hand, maybe you wouldn’t mind living in a neighborhood where the median age skews a little older. You might be fine with music on the radio, but you might not be down with midnight electronic dance music raves that are more likely in college neighborhoods.
Your real estate agent should be able to tell you a bit about the makeup of the neighborhood to help you get a sense of the people you’ll be around and potentially hanging out with.
This is especially important to think about if you have kids. If your children are younger than school-age or switching schools, does this area feed into a good district to give your children a high quality education?
If you don’t plan on having your child change schools, is the neighborhood close enough to make busing or the drive be feasible? Can you make the drive short-term and have them switch schools at the beginning of the school year or when they graduate to middle or high school?
Even if you don’t have kids, you should know about the school district your new place is in. It affects your property taxes and you still have a vote when the district proposes a millage.
The local high school can also be a source of entertainment as they often put on free or inexpensive programs and events for the community, so that’s something to consider.
Distance to Amenities
Everyone always thinks of the distance to work or school, but there are a variety of other things you should take into account as well.
How far is the new house from your primary care doctor or dentist? If it’s too long of a drive, are you willing to make a switch? You might have a similar decision over the veterinarian or doggy daycare.
While we’re on animals, how close is the nearest dog park or walking trail? The four-legged family members need somewhere to get rid of that pent-up energy, especially if you don’t have a large yard.
Are you a movie buff? Maybe you want to know where you can find the nearest theater with those fancy leather chairs and a bar.
You might also want to be close enough to a big city to experience all the nightlife, concerts and sporting events that go along with it.
Price of Proximity
One thing to think about when we talk of the distance to various attractions is the premium price you may pay to be close.
For some, the extra money may be worth it. I work in downtown Detroit and it’s cool to realize I’m a few blocks from Comerica Park and the Fox Theatre. It would definitely be advantageous to live down here and have everything within walking distance. You may even be able to get by with a bike instead of a car in a city.
On the other hand, you may be able to save a little money on the deal by settling for a commute to the big entertainment venues in your area. Think of it as a gas vs. home savings equation.