10 Tips to Zero In On the Right Neighborhood

Maybe you’re shopping for your first home in the town or city where you’ve lived for years, or perhaps you’re moving to a new area. Either way, it’s easy to forget that the neighborhood you choose might be even more important than the specific home. You can fix up a home to fit your taste, but you can’t remodel the entire neighborhood.

We’ve put together a list of things to keep in mind during your search for the best neighborhood for you.

1. Walkability
Is it important to be able to walk to a grocery store, coffee shop, bus stop? Is there a park nearby where you can take kids or dogs? Don’t just look at the score provided on the home’s listing … go to the neighborhood and stroll around. 

Flyhomes says: Walk Score not only provides a numerical score (on a scale of 100) for walkability for any address, but also gives ratings for public transport, biking, and more, and even indicates local eateries on a map.

2. School district
If kids are, or will be, in the picture, find out everything you can about the school district, from kindergarten through high school. There are multiple sources for this information and they can be conflicting, so be thorough in your research and talk to people (including your agent) rather than relying solely on websites.

Flyhomes says: Even if you don’t have kids, pay attention to school districts when you’re searching for a home. They can impact home value and if you’re close enough to walk to a school, may also affect noise and traffic.

3. How hot is the neighborhood?
Do homes sell quickly? That indicates a hot neighborhood where buying is likely a better-than-average investment (but also generally means higher-than-average price tags). Your agent will provide a list of comps to show what similar homes nearby have sold for. While nobody has a crystal ball, thorough research can indicate what areas are on the verge of exploding in popularity – it’s great to get in early.

Flyhomes says: A large number of homes for sale in a neighborhood, development, or condominium building can be a sign that people are moving out for reasons that can include a growing crime rate, poor condo management, zoning issues, and more. (Learn about zoning ordinances.)

4. Commute time
If you commute to and from work, know how much time you’re willing to spend in the car or on public transportation. Is it easy to get to highways? Consider accessibility to bus, rail, or subway, and work out what commute time can be expected. 

Flyhomes says: Also consider biking routes. If your future commute is hilly, consider an electric bike to assist your pedaling.

5. Rental ratio
Find out how many nearby homes are owner occupied. It’s not necessarily a deal breaker if a property (single-family or condo) is surrounded by rentals, but turnover happens: one renter may be the perfect neighbor, but can quickly be replaced.

Flyhomes says: Another thing to keep in mind, especially in buildings with a mix of owner-occupied and rental units, is that some may be used as short-term rentals (such as Airbnb, HomeAway, Vrbo, etc.). Good to know before you buy.

6. Condo considerations
Condominiums require a few considerations that single-family homes do not. Is a parking spot included? (It’s not unheard of for urban parking spots to cost as much as entire homes in other parts of the country.) Is there guest parking and a common area available for personal use? 

Flyhomes says: If possible, ask current owners about the homeowner’s association and building management, and if they feel that dues are appropriate or excessive.

7. Vibe
When you look around, do homes look like they’re well maintained? Even if some appear careworn, neatly kept lawns are a good sign that attention is being paid.

Flyhomes says: Take a look at the neighborhood after dark, too. Does it feel safe and well-lit? Visiting both day and night, weekday and weekend, will provide a good idea about noise level as well.

8. Curb appeal
Think about the look and condition of the street itself. Is there curb appeal to not just the house or condo you’re interested in, but also to nearby residences? Are there sidewalks and trees? Hills that would be difficult in a snowstorm?

Flyhomes says: Even if a street isn’t a main thoroughfare, find out if drivers use it as an alternate to avoid traffic – look for traffic circles and speed bumps. This might not be a deal breaker, but it’s worth considering, especially if you have small children or outdoor cats.

9. Neighborliness
Do you see people out and about on the streets, talking to one another? Find out if there’s a neighborhood community group or watch organization, both of which can provide a heightened sense of security and belonging. 

Flyhomes says: If there isn’t a watch in the neighborhood where you end up buying, you can start one.

10. Crime data
Nobody wants to think about crime statistics, but it’s important to be informed before you choose to buy in a certain neighborhood.

Flyhomes says: There are a number of subscription websites that provide crime data, but before signing up, ask your real estate agent to help you learn about crime rates for target neighborhoods.


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