Consider this (real life) scenario: unfamiliar with the neighborhood, a young woman rents a beautiful house on a picturesque street and moves in. She quickly discovers that her house is en route to a motorcycle clubhouse. On Saturday nights, after the downtown closes, the sound of motorcycles tearing down her street wakes her up.
Imagine if you had just bought that house. Now, a noisy wake up call may or may not change your overall opinion of a neighborhood, but the point is that you want to know about a neighborhood before you purchase a home there. This is especially important if you are moving to a new city - so do your research.
Where do you start? Well, first you want to have an idea of what you want in a neighborhood. If you have children, you may be looking at schools – are there good schools in the neighborhood, how far are they from your house? Can the kids walk to school? How many streets will they have to cross? What are the amenities in the neighborhood? Are shopping, banking, recreation and restaurants easily accessible? How about transit?
Once you have decided on the area, it's time to do some more advanced research to get a feeling for the local ambience. You can start by asking your realtor for neighborhood info — a good real estate agent should give you a realistic impression of the area.
Now it's time for the first person experience: the easiest way to get to know a neighborhood is to spend some time in it. Drive through the community during rush hour, late at night and on the weekend. This should also give you an idea of the parking situation in the area. Get out of your car and walk through it – and listen while you do it. Take note of the sounds of traffic, or anything else that may affect your peace of mind. Take public transit. All of this will help you get a feel for the local atmosphere. Remember, a neighborhood that is quiet during the winter might come alive in the summer, and vice versa.
Next, talk to some residents and local business owners —you are likely to get an honest review of the neighborhood, both the good and the bad. Call the local police and ask about crime in the area. Check for registered sex offenders living in the neighborhood. All of this will give you important information you won't get from the neighborhood's appearance or the Chamber of Commerce website.
Of course, you also need to look at the financial future in your home. Property values for the neighborhood whether it's currently being developed, and future development potential are all important considerations and might help you get an idea of what the area might look like in a few years. It's also important to find out about local utility rates and property taxes average.
It's easy to become infatuated with the perfect house, but remember, the neighborhood is an essential piece of the picture. You want to make sure you have your information before making a decision. "Location, location, location" is an oft repeated phrase in the real estate world, and with a little research you can ensure that you are settling into the location that's just right for you.