How to Research Neighborhoods

Properly researching a potential neighborhood is just as crucial as choosing a home that meets your needs.

When you’re considering a new home, you probably find yourself looking at square footage, floor plans, property size and other factors. After all, buying a home is one of the most significant investments that you will make over the course of your life. However, the home itself is only part of the equation when you are trying to choose the place that you will call home for the next chapter of your life. Knowing how to properly research a potential neighborhood ensures that you don’t move into a place that isn’t right for you and leaves you regretting the biggest purchase of your life. 

Check the Walkability Rating

This one may not be a deciding factor for you if you like driving everywhere, but if you’re interested in walking to local attractions, make sure to use a website such as Walk Score to get the walkability rating of a neighborhood. Walkability scores are issued based on how easy it is to get from your potential address to another location such as a grocery store or nearby restaurant. If you love the idea of taking a nice stroll from your home to a particular point of interest, getting a good walkability score is crucial.

Speaking of Walking…

Before you make the decision to put in an offer on a property, go walk the neighborhood itself. An observative walk through a neighborhood will give you a great idea about the makeup of the area, the quality of its infrastructure and other important features. For instance, if you have a family, walk by the local park to see if there are other families that you will be able to connect with and form friendships with. Walks can’t also point out the negative. Is there trash everywhere with cracked sidewalks, busy streets and other potential issues? If so, you may want to consider a different address. 

Education Matters

If you have children or are planning on having children, you want them to receive the best education possible. Unfortunately, not every school offers the same quality of education. Using a website such as Great Schools can help you determine if the address that your considering falls within a school district that meets your expectations. Not only does a home being in a good school district help ensure that your children receive quality education, but there is also a direct correlation between a home’s value and the quality of the schools in the district.

Be Sure to Consider Your Pets

If you have any pets, you understand how important they are to the makeup of your family. If you are considering purchasing a home that is under the jurisdiction of a homeowners’ association, you will want to make sure that your pets meet the rules set forth by the HOA. Rules vary greatly between different HOAs, so you should ensure that the number of pets you own, their size and other considerations fall under those guidelines. If an HOA isn’t welcoming to your pets, it may be a good idea to consider a home elsewhere.

Check Out Crime Rates

Under the Fair Housing Act, your real estate agent is not allowed to disclose the crime rate of an area to their clients. That means that this research is your responsibility. Fortunately, there are resources online that can let you know about the crime rate of a neighborhood and can provide the type of information that your Realtor legally cannot. Check out websites such as CityProtect or Neighborhood Scout to get crime rates and other important information about a potential neighborhood. Unfortunately, being educated about these numbers is a crucial part of choosing a new home, as you don’t want to live in an area that puts you, your family or your property in danger.

Consider the Commute

Before you commit to buying a property, drive to the address and then drive to your place of employment. Depending on the area that you’re considering, heavy traffic patterns, road construction and other factors may mean that your commute is going to be incredibly long and problematic. If possible, test the commute on a day that you would generally have to work so you can make the drive from the property to your job during normal business hours. If it seems like traffic is going to be heavy or the drive itself is just too long, you may want to shift your focus to an address that is more conducive to your daily drive to work.

Property Value Trends

Real estate is a rare commodity due to the fact that a wide variety of factors can impact the value of a property. We already discussed how school districts can impact a property’s value, but crime rates, local amenities and any host of other factors can also play a role in the short-term and long-term value of a property. While you may be able to get a good price on a property due to negative impacts on its value, you don’t want to invest in a property that is forecasted to decrease in value going forward. Consider your home purchase as an investment. Ideally, you will invest in a property that can provide a positive return if you decide to sell it later.

There are plenty of ways to ensure that you’re moving into a neighborhood that is the right fit for you and your family. Properly researching a potential neighborhood is just as crucial as choosing a home that meets your needs.


How Boston is Addressing Affordable Housing

Back to Buying

Financial Mistakes to Avoid When Buying a House