Buying a new house is exciting, and most homeowners have at least some idea of what they’re looking for. You might have a picture of a two-story home with a certain style, and a specific number of bedrooms or bathrooms, but have you given much thought to the type of neighborhood you want to live in?
If you’re like most prospective homebuyers, you want to live in a “good” neighborhood. But what does that really mean? And what steps can you take to research your neighborhood before you move there?
Types of Research
Let’s start with some of the types of research you can do before you buy:
- Online tools. Your first option is to rely on online tools dedicated to helping people accurately assess prospective neighborhoods. For example, NeighborhoodScout allows you to search an area by address, and learn things like crime rates, property values, and more. GreatSchools is ideal if you’re specifically trying to learn more about the quality of a neighborhood’s school systems. And if you’re looking to learn more about a neighborhood in the Greater Houston area, you can check out some of Green Residential’s own neighborhood guides.
- In-person visits. One of the most obvious things you can do is visit the neighborhood in person. Online metrics, reviews, and objective statistics can help you get a bird’s eye view of a given neighborhood, but you won’t really know how it “feels” until you’re there. Drive around and look at the houses. Walk the sidewalks at night; do you feel safe? Trust your instincts here, and make sure you visit at different times of day.
- Neighbor interviews. While you’re there, try talking to some of the people who live there. Do they seem friendly and talkative, and/or welcoming to new people? Or is it hard to find anyone to give you the time of day? Do people seem to take pride in this neighborhood, or do they seem like they’re just passing through?
Factors to Consider
Using these research methods, what exactly should you be looking for?
Everyone will be looking for something different, so choose the neighborhood that best suits your lifestyle—not necessarily the one that appears best to the greatest number of people.
These are some of the best factors to consider:
- Overall location. How is this neighborhood positioned, compared to the rest of the city? For example, if you work downtown and plan on living in a suburb, how long does it take you to drive to and from work? Is the neighborhood near a major highway, which could make it easier for you to travel pretty much anywhere? Is it located near woods, or a river, giving you a connection to nature?
- There are a few different ways to think about crime, but in general, the lower the crime rates in a given neighborhood, the better. There’s no such thing as a neighborhood with no crime, but take a look at overall statistics over the past few years and compare them to other, similar neighborhoods. Are they better or worse? Do they seem to be trending upward or downward? You may also wish to see the difference between nonviolent crimes, like burglary, and violent crimes, like murder.
- You’ll also want to think about the school system. Most neighborhoods have one or a handful of schools to choose from, and they’re all going to perform differently in terms of national evaluations, test scores, and subjective reviews from parents. Make sure you look at all of these factors before you finalize your decision. You’ll also want to consider how close the school is; is this somewhere your children could walk or bike?
- Speaking of transportation, what options does your neighborhood offer? Proximity to a highway and access to well-paved roads is generally a good thing, but you’ll also want to consider whether this is close to a bus stop or other form of public transportation. You may also consider how walkable or bikeable this neighborhood seems to be; are there lots of sidewalks in good condition, with plenty of streetlights so you can see at night? Are there well-established bike lanes and/or trails to support bicyclists? These are generally good things.
- Though they may be slightly outside the confines of the literal neighborhood, think about the amenities that are nearby. Are there local parks where you and your family can spend recreation time? What about a nearby convenience store where you can pick up a few groceries after work? Is there a nearby gym? A movie theater? The most important amenities to you and your family will depend on your goals and your lifestyle, but it’s generally good to have multiple options close to your home, and accessible enough to be convenient.
- Though not your highest priority, you may also consider the overall aesthetics of a neighborhood. Do all the houses look new and in good condition? Do you like the fact that they’re all different, and have a unique character? Are the streets lined with trees that make the whole neighborhood seem more beautiful? Do people seem to care about tending gardens and keeping their lawns in good condition? This is one of the most subjective factors to consider, but it still matters.
- Finally, consider the types of people who live in this neighborhood. While some demographic factors shouldn’t matter to you at all, you might feel more “at home” raising a family in a neighborhood with other families, rather than, say, single college students. You may also prefer living in a neighborhood where the majority of the residents are actual homeowners, rather than renters. They may be more inclined to take good care of their properties (and the neighborhood at large).
If you’re not sure what you’re looking for in your next Texas home, or if you just need some help finding properties in a neighborhood that suits your needs, contact Green Residential today! We’ll pair you with one of our buying agents, and help you find the perfect property.