So you’re in the market to buy a home? Congratulations! You’re probably already overwhelmed by decisions: Colonial or ranch style? Stucco or stone? One or two story? Carpet or parquet flooring?
And that’s not even including one of the most important factors in any new home purchase: location, location, location.
It might not be everything, but it’s almost everything. It will determine your commute, impact your social life, shape your children’s education and affect a host of other aspects in your life.
Depending on your city, you probably have your own dream neighborhoods and avoidable boroughs. But in case you don’t—or if you want a bit more guidance as you do research—the folks at ABODO put together a handy checklist of things to look for (and avoid) as you examine possible locations for your new house. Every day, they help thousands of people find the perfect place—in the perfect spot—for their needs. Here is what they recommend considering.
1. The school district
If you don’t have children and don’t plan on having them, skip to the next item. But if you have a family—or think you might have one within the next few years—school districts should be a major component in your neighborhood choices. Sites like niche k12 offer testing statistics, user reviews and contact information for hundreds of thousands of public, private and charter schools nationwide. In some cases, it might be a good idea to schedule a tour or attend an open house, so you can get an idea of how your child (or potential child) might fit in with the culture and educational philosophy.
2. Property taxes
You’ll be paying taxes on your house and the land it sits on, so it’s a good idea to know the general tax rate in the neighborhood you’re investigating. If you’re in the market for a particular property, it shouldn’t be hard to find the value of the house and its land. If you’re unclear on that, you can always contact the county assessor for an up-to-date valuation. As for tax rates, the local government typically keeps those figures easily accessible online. You’ll also want to look at other local entities requiring tax money such as public schools and town administration.
And depending on your area, tax rates may be affected by a range of services. For example, in some cities tax rates are higher but include services like trash pickup and sewer, while smaller towns treat such services “a la carte’” for a lower property tax rate. It’s good to know not only how much money you’ll be paying, but where it’s going.
3. Neighborhood parks
Local parks provide health benefits and recreational opportunities beyond your backyard. Sometimes your lawn just doesn’t have enough space to toss a football around. Or you want to venture out for a picnic, go for a scenic jog or ride your bike. Studies show that spending time in nature is linked to lower blood pressure, reduced obesity rates and mitigated pollution effects. If getting outside often is important to you, see what the local parks have to offer in terms of tennis courts, basketball courts or grills. Take note of how they’re maintained. Also consider the distance between you and the parks or trails. Do you want to load up your bike and drive across town for every ride? If not, try to find a home with easy access to a bike/pedestrian trail. Finally, do a little research into which local parks host festivals or concerts throughout the year. Armed with that information, you can decide how close—or far—you want to live to these events.
4. Crime rate
Few neighborhood characteristics are as universally desirable as safety. Everyone wants the freedom to go for an evening walk without worry. To check up on the crime rate in a potential neighborhood, you could peruse the local police blogs or go on CrimeReports.com for a map of offenses as well as trends. On FamilyWatchdog.us, you can access a map and details of nearby sex offenders. As little as a few streets can separate a safer neighborhood from a more dangerous one, so be sure to center your research around your potential home’s street address.
5. Natural phenomena
We’re not talking about snowstorms or hurricanes here — you already know what region of the country you’re in. The big nature flag to watch for in your new neighborhood is whether you’re located in a floodplain. Flooding is huge for homeowners for many reasons: It lowers the property’s value, destroys belongings and is not typically covered by homeowner’s insurance. Flood protection is usually a separate policy that adds another expense to your budget. To see if a potential property is prone to flooding, visit FEMA’s Flood Map Service Center or FloodSmart.gov.
6. Eye test
This neighborhood measure is probably the easiest to research. Simply take a look around and see how you feel. Do the yards look maintained? Are there people outside enjoying themselves? Are the streets clean? How are the noise and traffic levels? Also stop by the neighborhood at night to see if anything changes. It’s a simple test, but it shouldn’t be underestimated.
And finally, keep in mind that a new home should always be accompanied by a good home owners insurance policy. If you’re looking for or just bought a new home, contact a Colonial agent today!