When shopping for a new home, buyers must remember that it’s not just the house or condominium’s layout, design, features, and condition that matters. The neighborhood of the potential home is just as important in contributing to the quality of life that you’ll enjoy. After all, as the saying goes, it’s truly all about “location, location, location.” To help you determine if the neighborhood you are considering is truly right for you or, even better, to help you focus your search before you fall in love with a home, consider these five factors:
- Affordability of the Neighborhood: While the size of your mortgage is your first financial consideration, you also need to consider the hidden costs of living in the neighborhood. What are the average property taxes? Are there other hidden costs such as the need to spend more on your commute? A good place to start is by asking, Do the homes in the neighborhood that you’re considering fit into your budget? Then expand to the lifestyle questions such as the commute. On the other hand, you must also look at the bigger picture to determine if the neighborhood will help you maintain or increase the value of the home you intend to purchase.
- Length & Ease of Commute: There are also potential time costs – i.e., opportunity costs – or savings that could be associated with the neighborhood that you are considering. How far away is it from your place of employment? Would you need to drive or is public transportation available? Then, try the commute during rush hour traffic – be sure to experience both the morning and evening commute – so you can gauge in real time how long it would take. You might even try the commute a few times to ensure your original test was not on an unusually light or heavy day. Then also ask yourself, what were the hassles of the commute? A small annoyance on your test runs might turn to feel much larger once you move into the neighborhood.
- Access to everyday and lifestyle activities: Are the places you need to go to every day easily accessible, including a grocery store, pharmacy, bank, gym, dry cleaner, day care, and more? Also, will you be close to the restaurants, museums, cultural events, parks, and other places where you will want to spend your off-time? These amenities will contribute to the enjoyment of your new home more than many image when they fall in love with a house. Likewise, the lack of access to the type of stores and attractions you frequent, while often minimized or disregarded during the home buying process, can grow into a dissatisfaction with your home over time.
- Proximity to education / schools: If you or someone in your family is going to school – or you are planning to start a family – are there quality schools nearby? Don’t just look at the scores through such websites as Great Schools, Illinois School Report Card and others, but also look at the website for the school and PTA/PTO. Would your route to the school be safely walkable or bikeable? What is the school schedule and how does it impact your work schedule? But it’s not just the schools. Other questions to ask: if needed, is there quality aftercare available? And what about summer activities such as camps? These are key questions to consider when choosing a neighborhood. Even if you don’t have a family or plan to start one, you should still look at the quality of the local schools, because, as research shows, they’re a stabilizing force for neighborhoods.
- Accessibility to friends and family: The people in your life are the key to finding ultimate happiness, but often the location of those you care about can either be a help or a hindrance for interacting with them. A question you must therefore ask is, will your new neighborhood be convenient for you to see your friends as well as have them visit you? Is it the right distance from or to your family too? Your answers will determine how often you’ll see them. And that will determine your ultimate happiness.
Often, home buyers find it hard to work through these questions on their own. If you need any guidance, my team at Jackie Mack & More can help. Feel free to give me a call and we can arrange a time to discuss the considerations you need to make before deciding where to focus your new home search