Whether you’re a first-time homebuyer or getting ready to sell your house and upgrade to a larger property, choosing the right neighborhood to move into should be your first consideration.
While different people may seek various amenities and aesthetics as part of their neighborhood search, there are certain factors everyone should consider before making a final decision on where to move.
Before you move into a particular locale, you should check the crime stats of the neighborhood. This can be done online using various websites that breakdown this critical information by zip code. In some jurisdictions, local police stations can give you this data. Suffice it to say, even if a neighborhood looks beautiful on the outside and there are plenty of houses to choose from, if you find that burglaries and car theft is skyrocketing there, it’s time to move on.
If you have children, or are planning to, the quality of a prospective neighborhood’s schools should be a major factor in making your choice. You can contact the local school board in the neighborhood’s jurisdiction and obtain the latest stats on how the average student in the neighborhood scores on national proficiency tests.
You can then compare them to scores of students in other areas. This stat often mirrors the quality and effectiveness of education available in a particular neighborhood.
You can also get an idea of the quality of education in a neighborhood by comparing the budget allotted by local officials to the area compared to other areas. Another source of information is the education section of community newspapers covering the neighborhood. It wouldn’t hurt to look them up online and even give the education reporter a call. You’d be surprised how many of them will be glad to give you their opinions of the state of education in the area they cover.
Finally, you can contact the local Parent Teacher Association (PTA) and get both the pros and cons of the education system in the area. Members of this organization also can tell you if the schools have sufficient room, or if they are overcrowded.
Traffic and Future Development
When choosing a new neighborhood, quality-of-life issues such as traffic and potential crowding have become important factors in making a decision. Let’s face it, no matter how pristine a neighborhood is, if you have to sit in gridlock for a significant amount of time before you can reach your front door, it might not be the area for you.
The easiest way to discover the traffic volume in a neighborhood is to get in your car and drive around it at peak morning and evening rush hours. If it’s easy to drive from place to place, then you have a winner. If not, then you might decide to cross the neighborhood off your list. If a neighborhood you’re interested in is already fairly built out, it makes sense to research whether there are any major development projects in the wings. This can be done by visiting the local planning board’s website, or visit in person.
Although it’s not a given that all proposed developments will be approved, a majority of them do make it from the drawing board to completion. So, if you are considering a neighborhood that is in store for major development in the next couple of years, you really need to weigh this factor in your decision.
Proximity to Schools, Stores, Hospitals and More
Another important consideration in choosing a neighborhood is the proximity of your new home to schools, hospitals, stores, parks and airports. If you have a family member who is disabled or sick, it makes no sense moving into a neighborhood that is far from the best medical facilities.
If you are an avid runner you probably want to choose a neighborhood that is close to a park with a running trail. While some neighborhood associations take pride in the fact they’ve managed to block zoning changes that would allow a local convenience store, if you like to grab a hot coffee everyday on the way to work, then you have to take this into consideration before buying a home in a neighborhood that bans stores.