Purchasing a home means more than the house itself. You also buy into a neighborhood. Wouldn’t you want to know everything about this place before you spend hundreds of thousands of dollars? No matter how much you love a home, if you don’t love the people or the area around it, you will never feel quite “happy.” So how do you research the area surrounding a home you like? There are many ways, but the internet and physically walking the neighborhood are two of the best ways.
Get out There and Talk
Word of mouth works great for many things, including purchasing a home. Don’t be shy when you find a home you like. Get out there and talk to the neighbors. Chances are they will be a loose cannon when it comes to talking about those who live around the home you might purchase. If there is a neighbor who regularly hosts large, late-night parties, you will hear about it. If there is a nosy cat lady who gets in everyone’s business, you will likely hear about that too. Of course, many people will also talk about the good things that go on, but you want to hear both – the good and the bad.
If you come across neighbors who don’t have loose lips, consider asking some of the following questions:
- What’s the noise level like during the day and at night?
- Are there a lot of kids?
- Has there been a lot of problems with crime related activity?
- Does the community host get togethers?
- What do people in the area think of the taxes?
- What do people in the area think of the schools?
These are just a few questions to get the conversations flowing. This way you can hear first-hand what the area is like.
When you check out the neighborhood, do not forget to do it at different times of day and different days of the week. It is best to go during the morning, afternoon, and night. You should also try to stagger your visits on weekdays and weekends. This way you can tell if you may have a neighbor who regularly holds loud parties on Saturday nights or if the morning hours are crazy with kids trying to get to school.
Research the Neighborhood on the Internet
There are many ways you can research the neighborhood on the internet. You probably won’t find a website geared directly for the area, but you can find things out in roundabout ways. Here are a few:
- Look at the county’s treasurer’s website and look at the history of the real estate taxes. This way you can see the pattern the real estate taxes in the area followed. Have they gone up quite a bit recently? Did they do this year after year? Once you see the pattern, you can ask questions. Maybe there was a referendum passed recently or some other big changes that you should be aware of before you purchase.
- Look at the crime rates. There are several ways you can do this. The easiest is a quick Google search. However, if you want specifics, check the Sex Offender’s Registry and the FBI’s Crime Reports. This way you can tell what types of crimes have occurred, whether big or small.
- Look up the school ratings. Even if you do not have children, you should know the school ratings in the area. This can affect your resale value. Purchasing in an area with poor schools could have a detrimental affect on your home’s value in the future.
- Look up the local amenities available in the area. How close are the grocery stores, gyms, post offices, schools, and anything else that is of importance to you. If you don’t want to drive 30 minutes to the local grocery store, we should know where it is at before you purchase.
Read the Newspaper
This might seem “old school,” but go ahead and get the local newspaper for the area. Even better, if the area has their own paper, read it. This way you can get a bird’s eye view of what goes on in the area. You will read about crimes, as well as the good things that go on in the area. These are important factors to help you decide. You will see community events and the things that the neighborhood cares about the most. If a community that works together is important to you, this is a great way to see if it exists in the area you are considering.
Modes of Transportation
Even if you have a car, you want to check out the modes of transportation in the area. How close is the home located to the train station? What about expressways? Eventually you will have to leave your area. If you have to go far just to get on the expressway or to catch a train, it can be a real hassle for you. Think of how important this is to you and then Google the distances to make sure they are reasonable for you.
Talk to Your Realtor
Don’t forget about the value of a realtor. The right realtor should know everything about the area he/she shows homes in. This way you can learn all there is to know about the area. Of course, you should still do your own research in order to get a better idea of what to expect. Certain things, like taxes and home values, though, can be provided to you by the realtor to make your job easier.
Honestly, researching a neighborhood is one of the most important things you can do. Knowing what to expect before you move in can really decrease the stress of buying a home. This is especially important if you have kids or you have special interests in the community. Start off on the right by knowing what you are getting into before you make one of the largest investments of your life.