When you buy a house, you’re also buying the neighborhood and the neighbors. Location and all that comes with it can be one of the biggest selling points of a property, but it can also cause property values to drop even if the house itself is great. Before you buy a home, you want to delve into the neighbors and the neighborhood. You want to ensure that everything, and not just the home you’re buying, works for your priorities and lifestyle. The following are some tips you can follow to research a neighborhood before you buy.
The BasicsFirst, things first are the basics of the neighborhood. For example, what are the taxes like? What about the schools? How’s the crime rate? These are all things that many people forget to look into during the excitement of searching for a home. To find out crime rates, you can use a map that will show you not only how many crimes are reported in a neighborhood, but what types. You might also want to do a check of sex offenders in the neighborhood, especially if you have kids. How walkable is the neighborhood if this is important to you, and what types of transportation are available? How reliable is the public transportation in the neighborhood? Even if you don’t yet have kids, if there’s the possibility you could in the future, check out the ratings for local schools. You can see things like test scores and how the schools for the neighborhood stack up against others in the city or state. To get started, Neighborhood Scout and Street Advisor are two great online resources. Now, for the less obvious but equally important things to look for when it comes to the neighborhood—your neighbors. Take a look for red flags of bad neighbors. For example, are there lawns that are cluttered or unkempt? If so, is this an outlier or more the norm? Even in a neighborhood with modest and older homes, you should look for exteriors that look like neighbors take pride in their homes. Are there a lot of rentals in the neighborhood? If there are, this could mean that first, there’s less pride in the upkeep of properties and second that there could be a lot of parties because renters tend to be students and younger people. You might also face a constantly changing tide of neighbors, and that could be a bad thing from your perspective. Along with the information you can gain from an online search or driving down the street, there are other ways you can do detective work on a neighborhood and its neighbors. First, talk to the neighbors. You want their honest opinion on what it’s like to live in the neighborhood. Some questions to ask the neighbors include:
- How long they’ve lived there—the longer someone’s lived in the neighborhood, the more accurate a picture they’re going to be able to paint.
- Ask the neighbors what they like most and least about living there.
- Ask your neighbors what they would change about the street if they had their pick.
- When you’re talking to your new potential neighbors, ask them if they’ve ever noticed anything strange or unsettling about the neighborhood and the house you have your eye on. You’ll be surprised at how much the neighbors might be willing to say.