Today’s blog is for you house hunters out there! I’m happy to help you in your search for a new home, and my first suggestion is for you to expand your search from the perfect property (whatever your wish list may include) to the surrounding neighborhood as well. Because, let’s face it, a house is not a home if you’re not happy with location, location, location!
The National Association of Realtors says location will impact your ongoing home value, as well as your lifestyle (think safety, amenities, etc.). Here are a few things to think about when choosing where to buy:
Check out the hot spots: And I’m not talking night clubs! Make a list of all the places you go regularly – that indie movie theater you love, your church, your gym, the hair stylist who gets your color just right). How far would you have to travel to get to each one or a suitable alternative?
Put your detective skills to the test: Crime is a key factor when choosing where to live. Do your research by checking local crime statistics online and with the police department. Ask about types of crimes (burglaries?) and trends (increasing or decreasing in recent years?). Find out if there’s an active neighborhood watch. Take a drive around and look for tell-tale (and actual) signs like Beware of Dog postings or high fences.
Follow the Golden Rule and check out the school!: Whether you’ve got school-age children or not, a good school district is a good buy, as houses in such districts are easier to sell later on. The board of education can provide answers to most of your questions, including class size and test scores. (I’ll write more on choosing a great school district in the near future!)
Evaluate the local economy: Is it stable? Contact the local economic development office and ask about property values (rising, falling, steady?), the ratio of homes to apartments, and the number of vacant homes and businesses. Ask about future development. Is that lovely field you can see from the deck zoned for big box stores? And find out what property taxes are now and what they’ve been in the five years prior. If they’ve increased significantly, find out why and investigate the potential for another hike.
Amenities abound!: Many neighborhoods (and gated communities) offer amenities to which you just might be amenable, like pools, playgrounds, community activities, convenient access to shopping, and more! Make a list of your must haves and let me know. Can’t live without a Bacci court? I’ll bet I’ve got that covered!
Taking it to the streets: I once had a boss who called his style “management by walking around.” It’s a good strategy to apply to a house hunt too. Walk through the neighborhoods you’re considering. Chat with people as how they like living there and why and if they could change something what would it be. Look for well-maintained homes, streets, and sidewalks, and pay attention to traffic speed and volume.
Realtors are your resource: As much as I encourage clients to do their homework, don’t forget that I’ve already got most of the answers and know where to find the rest! So put me to the test!
Lara Taylor – Realtor/Broker
Twitter – @AskForLara