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Scoping Out the Neighborhood

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As readers of First Bank’s free e-book 16 Secrets Every Homebuyer Should Know have already discovered, it’s critical to research a potential neighborhood when buying a home.

Here are some key considerations to help you make an informed decision about the place you might call home.

Home Prices and Sales Data

Sites like Zillow, Redfin, and Trulia can give you data on other homes in your prospective neighborhood. Make sure you’re comparing the price per square foot rather than the overall price.

Are you buying the cheapest house in the neighborhood? That might mean there’s something wrong with it. Are you buying the priciest house on the block? You could be overpaying.

You’ll also want to see how quickly the homes in your neighborhood have sold in the past, or how long they’ve stayed on the market. If there are several other places on your block that have languished on the market for months, it might not bode well for the neighborhood or the future value of your potential home.

Local Schools

GreatSchools.org rates local schools “by comparing the school’s state standardized test results to those of other schools in the state.” Even if you don’t have kids, good local schools are indicative of a good neighborhood (and will also boost the resale value of your home).

Walkability

A neighborhood’s Walk Score measures the restaurants, parks, shopping, and other resources available to you on foot. A neighborhood that’s highly walkable can mean a vibrant quality of life for you and your family.

Crime Rate

Check with your local police department to see if they map out recent crimes. If you’re considering a purchase near a criminal cluster, you might want to think again.

Foreclosure Data

Go to the local courthouse to find area foreclosure data. You may not want to invest in a neighborhood with a high number of foreclosures. Even if you pay your bills on time, foreclosures around you might bring down the value of your house.

On the other hand, you might be able to use this knowledge to get a better price when negotiating with the seller, and then be a part of that neighborhood’s revitalization.

Neighborhood Regulations

Find out whether your home will fall under regulations from a Homeowner’s Association, the city, or a historic district.

Before you buy, you’ll want to know whether your neighborhood restricts signs on your property, the color you can paint your house, whether you can do additional construction, and more.

On the Ground Experience

There’s no substitute for walking and driving around the neighborhood at different times of the day and night.

If you don’t like what you see, hear, or smell, you can at least be happy that you figured this out before you moved in.

You can also talk to your prospective neighbors to get their takes.

Every homebuyer has his or her own personal desires for a potential neighborhood. Some might be anxious to live in a neighborhood filled with kids – others might run the other way. Some might despise airplane noise, while others would welcome the proximity to the airport.

The most important thing is to collect as much information as you can before making the decision that’s right for you.


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