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Home Buying and Refinancing

Homebuying How-To: Picking Your Perfect Neighborhood

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Where do you want to live?  

Not just sleep and eat, but live? Your experience as a homeowner will encompass more than just your house—the neighborhood you choose will have a huge impact on your lifestyle, so it’s important to figure out the best one for you. And that starts with asking lots of smart questions.

 

We’re here to help you figure out the right questions to ask and whom to ask. From your real estate agent to the staff at the local restaurant or bar to your potential future neighbors, there are lots of easy ways to get a read on the area where you’re hoping to live. Ask open-ended questions that allow people a chance to share their favorite—and least favorite—aspects of the area. And start doing your research. You’ll begin to understand the atmosphere and the people who live there so you can decide if the neighborhood feels like home.

 

The right fit for your family

Every family is different, so it’s important that the neighborhood meets your unique needs. Here are some ideas to consider when assessing the area:

 

The schools.

If you have or plan to have children, get some information on the local schools. Since where you live determines which public schools your kids have access to, it’s a good idea to learn about the educational opportunities close by. Check out the schools’ websites; drive by to see if they’re well maintained; call and ask questions. Knowing that your children will be close to a school you feel good about is a great way to size up a potential neighborhood. But don’t lean too heavily on scores or rankings.1, 2, 3


“[Former teacher Leah Wiseman] Finknoted on Curbed.com that she doesn’t put too much stock in scores. She says the best thing you can do is tour the actual schools to get a feel. Meeting local parents is great, but you can also do some sleuthing online; e.g., there may be a Facebook group dedicated to schools in your prospective neighborhood, where you can hear (and ask!) about people’s individual experiences.”4 

 

The safety.

You can explore the safety stats of your future neighborhood to determine how comfortable you feel about living there. Exploring crime and road-safety statistics as well as accessibility for anyone in your family with limited mobility is a good method for gauging how you’ll adapt.

 

The resources.

Get an idea of what the local resources are. Is there good daycare? What about a vet? Explore nearby shops and services to get a feel for what you can expect. Try out the gym up the street, shop at the neighborhood grocery store, take your dog to the closest dog park. It may be that your neighborhood doesn’t have 100% of the things you need, but knowing you’ll have access to the ones that matter most to you can help in making your decision.2

 

The right fit for your lifestyle

When you picture yourself in your ideal neighborhood, what are the common themes? Can you walk to the coffee shop or the local grocery store? Is there a park close by where your kids or dogs can get some exercise? Is it close to a beach or hiking trails? Is the commute doable? Getting a full picture of your neighborhood is essential to making sure you’re happy in your new home.



Get a feel for the neighborhood.

Try to walk, bike or drive to the areas you’d want to take advantage of; from the dog park to the elementary school to the nearest grocery store or gas station. Does it feel right? Will it be feasible? Is there enough parking? Do you feel safe? And keep in mind: sometimes neighborhoods feel different between day and night—what might be a sleepy block during the day could have a vibrant nightlife come sundown. Visit at different times to get a more complete picture. 2, 5

 

Ask the neighbors.

Are you looking forward to backyard barbecues and block parties with the neighbors? Ask about that. If you prefer a bit more privacy and solitude, consider your neighborhood community through that lens, too. If you’re moving onto a block full of families with small children, you might not want all the activity. Or it might be just what you and your kids are looking for.

 


According to On the Go Moving, “Community events are fun ways to meet your new neighbors and find out what your local community is passionate about. Look up events in your area, stop by local businesses and take note of events listed on their bulletin boards. Attending local events is one of the easiest ways to get to know your new neighbors.”3

 
Explore on social media.

Apps like Nextdoor can help you get an idea of what the folks in your area care about. And following local shops and communities can give you even better insight.

 


Debra Wyatte of Cecilian Partners and the Forbes Biz Council says, “Leverage social media outlets. By following area organizations, coffee shops, protected communities and more, future renters and buyers can get a sense of what is happening in the area from those who live there every day.”2

 

Play tourist for a day.

Pretend you’re a tourist and explore the area for a day. Start with a coffee from a local spot, have breakfast, visit the art galleries, see a show, go shopping. Imagine yourself spending lots of time in these places for years to come. Popping into local shops and chatting up the owners is a great way to learn the area. And if you have a great time, you’ll have more than your new home to look forward to when you move.6

 

The right fit for your finances

It’s essential to buy a home in a neighborhood you can afford. Assessing the complete financial implications of your neighborhood helps to ensure you can sustainably afford your home long-term. It’s not enough to pay your mortgage; you need to know you can manage taxes, upkeep and any unforeseeable repairs too. You can use our mortgage calculators to figure out if the neighborhood makes sense for you.

 

Property taxes.

Knowing what you’ll need to pay in property taxes in a given area will help you understand how much it will actually cost to live there. Retirement Living’s calculator is a great way to determine taxes by state—extra-helpful if you’re planning to move across state lines.7

 

Commuting.

Practice your commute to the office. If you’re going to commit to the area, you’ll want to know that you can manage the daily drive to work. Think about your overall commute to work or school, running errands, etc., and see how that will affect your time in transit and your overall transit costs.8 Maybe you want to live in an area where you don’t need to drive at all: get on the local bus or subway or try out riding your bike. If it’s something you feel strongly about, you should make sure it’s feasible and fits in your budget.

 

Maintenance and upkeep.

The weather in your neighborhood will define the kind of home maintenance you can expect. From cleaning the gutters to inspecting the roof, chimney, HVAC and windows to shoveling snow and cutting the grass—the weather in your area can end up costing you money. Consider those costs before you buy, and make sure they’re part of your home budget.9

 

Your location within your location.

The end of a block, a cul-de-sac, main street, side street and/or a neighborhood governed by a Homeowners Association (HOA)—wherever your house might be situated can have a big impact on its cost and value. A cul-de-sac, for example, can be a great way to escape noise and traffic, and may ultimately increase your selling price in the long run over that of a house on a busy corner.10 Meanwhile, if you choose a neighborhood with an HOA, you’ll be expected to pay dues and abide by its rules. HOA’s can dictate any number of things from paint color to lawn maintenance to how many cars you can park on your property. Make sure to factor your HOA’s specific guidelines and costs into your budget before you decide to buy.11

 

The right bank for all your needs

At the end of the day, our interest is helping you find the right home and finance it in a smart way that works for you and is sustainable for the long haul. Our loan advisors are ready to answer any questions you might have and help you take advantage of resources that can make the process streamlined and simple. We offer accessible lending in all 50 states, so reach out to us any time for guidance and we’ll tailor financing solutions to fit your life.

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1Burch, Kelly. “Pop Quiz! 5 Insightful Questions to Ask the Neighbors Before You Buy That Home.” Realtor.com. November 27, 2017. https://www.realtor.com/advice/buy/questions-to-ask-neighbors-before-you-buy/

 

2Expert Panel, Forbes Biz Council. “10 Ways To Research A New Area Before Relocating.” Forbes.com. June 28, 2021. https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbesrealestatecouncil/2021/06/28/10-ways-to-research-a-new-area-before-relocating/?sh=4a3a95c24f63

 

3“How To Meet Your New Neighbors: 7 Non-Awkward Tips For Introducing Yourself.” OntheGoMoving.com. September 27, 2019.  https://onthegomoving.com/how-to-meet-your-neighbors/

 

4Nonko, Emily and Fenton, Laura. “How to Pick a Neighborhood to Call Home: What You Need to Know About Assessing an Area Before Putting Down Roots.” Curbed.com. February 12, 2020. https://archive.curbed.com/2017/10/13/16466398/home-buying-tips-city-neighborhood

 

5Schmidt, Diane. “How to Pick and Move to the Best Neighborhood for You and Your Family.” TheSpruce.com. July 5, 2020. https://www.thespruce.com/choosing-the-right-neighborhood-2435878

 

6Chai, Carmen. ​​“7 Ways to Get to Know Your Neighborhood.” NewHomeSource.com. https://www.newhomesource.com/learn/get-to-know-neighborhood/

 

7“Finding Your New Home: Researching a Neighborhood Before Buying.” Discover.com. https://www.discover.com/home-loans/articles/stalking-your-new-home-researching-a-neighborhood-before-buying/

 

8Crace, Miranda. “Where Should I Live? A Guide To Deciding The Right Place For You.” RocketMortgage.com. September 20, 2021. https://www.rocketmortgage.com/learn/where-should-i-live

 

9Sleight, Mandy. “Winter Safety Checklist: 10 Home Maintenance Tips for the Cold Months: Here’s How to Prepare Your Home for Winter.” Cnet.com. September 17, 2021. https://www.cnet.com/home/energy-and-utilities/winter-safety-checklist/

 

10Busy Street or Cul-de-sac: Your Corner of the World.” Coldwell Banker, FLColdwellBanker.com. February 22, 2018. https://www.flcoldwellbanker.com/blog/busy-street-or-cul-de-sac-your-corner-of-the-world/

 

11Falcon, Jason. “HOA vs. No HOA: How a Homeowners Association Can Affect Your Property Value.” Leap Property Management, Leapdfw.com. June 4, 2019. https://www.leapdfw.com/blog/hoa-vs-no-hoa-how-a-homeowners-association-can-affect-your-property-value/

 

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