When it comes to choosing a new home neighborhood what factors should you consider and how should you evaluate whether the neighborhood fits your needs?
According to The Balance, “American homeowners sell and move, on average, every five to seven years.” Therefore, making sure the home you purchase is the one that will make you happy is critical...because you really don’t want to be unhappy in your home for the coming six years.
Ideally, every neighborhood you're considering must be evaluated with criteria that fall into two categories:
- Your lifestyle: how you want your daily life to look and feel.
- The place: what qualities, features and benefits do you want in your community.
Envision your life in the neighborhood
Life coaches and decorators often use vision boards to help people organize both feelings and concrete things. With a board, you can begin to actualize intangible feelings, as well as tangible items. Starting your new home neighborhood search with the creation of a vision board can help you realize your vision, making your search simpler. A vision board will act as your picture of core desired life in this new place. A quick Google search for home vision boards will help you comprehend how others have tackled creating vision boards for this purpose.
Consider location, lot size and configuration
Location tops the list of all attributes when it comes to any real estate search. As you create your vision, see yourself in the place you would love to live. Though not every house hunt will get you to your ultimate home, but for this search, be realistic about what will make you and your family happy. Would you prefer city or county or even country? What size lot will make you happy? Do you need an acre or can you be just as delighted with a fifth of an acre?
Do you want to live in a traditional community with manicured lawns or would you prefer a more rustic feeling or even a new style community that eschews lawns for vegetable gardens? How close are the neighbors? Getting the location right is critical because it affects so many aspects of your life.
The view from here is...
Is a view high on your priority list? Will you be happy looking at your neighbors’ fences, or do you need a view of woodlands, a pond or the horizon? Do you need privacy of view? While there are many ways to landscape to create privacy, you can’t move the pond closer or situate your home next to protected land. Know what you want before falling in love with a home’s interior features.
Can I get there from here?
Americans live in their automobiles. How far you commute and for what purpose is a critical factor in community selection. If you will commute for work, consider how far the commute may be depending on the time of day you’re commuting. If you work from home, how close will you be to your children’s schools or the local fitness center. These days’ time is everyone’s most valuable commodity. Plan to spend yours where it means the most to you.
When you run out of a cup of sugar, how far is it to the store? If you’re someone who wants shops, restaurants, grocery stores, pharmacies and dry-cleaners nearby, will you walk, bike, or drive to access them?
Suburban and master-planned new home neighborhoods like Nexton often include commercial areas within the community. Infill new home development like The Pines at Gahagan may be near existing city shops and restaurants. Understand what will be easiest for you, knowing that once selected, you can’t relocate your house, only yourself.
Additionally, decide how important it is for you to be near hospitals and regular medical care. This factor alone could help you determine your home’s location.
The neighborhood and the people who live there
Once you’re narrowed down the ideal location, think about the neighborhood and all the factors that will make life there pleasurable.
What is the neighborhood culture? Is it a place where the community enjoys regular social gatherings? Is there a sense of welcome or are there cliques of people who shut out newcomers? To find out these things, ask people you meet in the vicinity of the community what they know about the neighborhoods you are interested in. If the community is not welcoming, you may want to cross it off your list.
Neighborhood appearance and development timeline
When doing a cursory visit to a neighborhood, do you see less well-cared-for homes? Are there more than a few lawns that are unkempt? Are there for-sale signs? Or do you see lots of listings in local real estate publications? What is the economic history of homes in the neighborhood? Do resales go for about the same price as the builder’s to-be-built homes? It’s important to understand that the place you’re considering has homes that keep their value.
Does the community have a blend of home types? Many large developments include single-family, detached homes, townhomes, and 55+ homes, for example. This blend of housing types creates a neighborhood with a pleasing mix of people of various ages. If you have, or are going to have children soon, their grandparents might decide to relocate to be near you. Selecting a community where they can easily do so will enhance the entire family’s quality of life.
What amenities are part of the development? Nowadays it is not uncommon to have walking, biking, tennis, swimming pools, fitness centers, playgrounds, and community meeting places in a new home community. If amenities are important, plan to review these in your search by inspecting them.
If this is a brand-new master-planned community or even a small, single builder community, how long will it be until the community will be “built out.” Realize that if a neighborhood has 10 years to build-out, you’ll be living with construction probably as long as you own your home there.
Who governs the neighborhood?
These days most new home communities have Declaration of Covenants, Conditions, and Restrictions (CC&Rs). Many times, these may be available for review on a builder’s neighborhood website. What are the association fees? What activities are not permitted? Are there fines? Who decides how to apply fines? How frequently are people fined? Read, review and understand how the CC&Rs are applied. CC&Rs will certainly affect your enjoyment of life.
Government services in the neighborhood
Questions to ask yourself about governance include: Which government entity provides law enforcement and fire protection in the neighborhood? What are the taxes and response times for service? Who provides refuse disposal and landscape debris pickup? Check out the ratings for each of these entities before you make any decisions.
Whether you have children or not, you need to consider the quality of schools near the developments you’re shortlisting. Highly rated schools are a major draw, not just for you, but for other families who might consider your home in six years when you move. Take time to question people about the schools and look up the ratings for each one on the web at websites like GreatSchools.org.
Plan to succeed in your new neighborhood search
It would be easy to find a home with features and amenities you like only to discover after you move in that the neighborhood is not easy to commute from, or the schools are bad or the neighbors are too close. As with all of life, plan for success by planning ahead.
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