You may have spent months looking for the perfect home. While concentrating on finding the right amount of bedrooms and the big back yard, you really believe you have found the home. Congratulations! Yet, make sure you take time and investigate the neighbourhood before you make that offer. Many buyers unfortunately, don’t research the surrounding area because they just assume that everything they hear about a certain area from family and friends is correct. Remember: You can buy the most wonderful house, but your lifestyle will suffer if the neighbourhood isn’t a good fit.
Here are some of the biggest mistakes people make in choosing a neighbourhood:
When buyers move because they are in transition, such as divorcing or downsizing or maybe ready to start a family, circumstances change quickly. Many buyers are struggling and often unsure what they are looking for in a neigbourhood. For example, if a death or divorce has happened, a spouse may look to stay in an area that they are familiar with, such as a suburban area, without thinking if they want something smaller, more urban or closer to family. The best thing to do is to sit down with a person in your similar situation and ask questions about their lifestyle. If you are looking to downsize, talk to friends who have recently done this for their advice and suggestions.
Don’t assume that a neighbourhood you have heard raves about is everything it says it is. I once heard a story where a buyer of a home asked the seller if the local school district was any good. Of course the seller said yes and the buyer made an offer without checking the facts. She later discovered that her particular elementary school was one of the lowest rated schools in the area. Only when the buyer tried to sell the home later, did she understand how important it is to be in a good school district. Her home took many months and several price reductions before it finally sold, to a retired couple! Unfortunately, this story happens all of the time. Also make sure you check to see that a neighbourhood you prefer is not zoned for proposed freeway construction or a commercial building is going up nearby. Crime? Check with the local police department to see if they have any problems in your area. And of course, always make sure your agent is aware of your concerns. A professional agent should have all of the information you need at their fingertips and should be able to give you the heads up if you are considering a home in an area that may be in transition.
Finding the perfect home in the perfect neighbourhood doesn’t seem so attractive if you spend the majority time on the road commuting to your job. While some buyers know the drive is a killer, other buyers aren’t aware of it until they actually make the drive on that first day. Buyers don’t often look at homes during heavy commuting times, such as early morning or evening. They will instead see the home on weekends or mid day and say to themselves, “Hey, it’s not a bad drive here!” I always suggest that buyers test the drive. Anything over an hour should be carefully considered. You may love the home and the neighbourhood is ideal, but if you are never there, ask yourself if it is worth it?
I have expressed this so many times on this site, but it really pays off if you take a good look at those that live in your neighbourhood. The people who surround you play a large role in your lifestyle, so obviously you want this to be a good experience. You don’t want to spend your free time with people who don’t keep up their property, who let their dogs run loose or who have parties day and night. Likewise, if you are looking for a traditional neighbourhood with young families, yet down the street there are condos for senior living, you may not find lots of opportunities for neighbourhood play dates or family barbecues with younger neighbours. It’s important to note that education, income, percentage of renters and housing mix should be carefully researched. So when considering a home, get out and walk around. Talk to potential neighbours as they water their grass, and ask questions about the area and what they like and dislike. Visit at different hours. In the evening, are there people loitering on the street corners? Is there too much noise? Do you feel safe?
The Right Amenities
Let’s say you are a first time home buyer and you love the house and neighbourhood because it is secure and appealing. There are lots of good chain family restaurants, movie theaters and local department stores. But the problem is, you like sushi, art galleries, farmer’s markets and live music. Many buyers don’t think about what entertainment is around them, but you soon will if you spend all of your time traveling in your car to your favorite spots. If considering a neighbourhood that is new to you, spend a day there. Browse the grocery stores, the local restaurants and shopping venues. Take note if you see too many vacant buildings are stalled construction, as maybe the community is suffering.
Remember, this is the place where you may spend the next several years or even longer. While this neighbourhood research may seem time-consuming, it is always a good idea to take a few hours to make sure you enjoy every single thing about your new home. By telling your real estate agent what you want in a home as well as a community, you will be getting a head start in finding the best neighbourhood for you.