What is the most important feature in any new purchase?
Depending on who you ask, you may get several different answers. For some buyers, the physical property is the most critical. For others, the location trumps the property. In any transaction, there is at least some consideration of the neighborhood.
Everybody wants to live in a location they are comfortable with. For many buyers, this is the starting point of their property search. They find a neighborhood that is appealing and go from there. Choosing the right neighborhood is more than picking a nice home on a nice street. There are several factors that should play a role in your decision. Here are five tips to help pick the perfect neighborhood for you.
Taxes. The typical starting point in picking a neighborhood are the property taxes. The taxes give you an indication in the strength of the area. If the taxes are high it can be viewed as a sign that the town is fiscally weak and may have to take measures to generate revenue, including tax increases. For practical purposes, the taxes directly impact your monthly payment. Lower taxes mean a lower payment which allows you to get more home for your dollar. On the flip side, if the taxes are high you may be restricted on the purchase price. Always look at the last five years of property taxes prior to falling in love with a neighborhood.
Schools.Even if you don’t have kids you should look at the area schools. For many buyers, the number and quality of schools is the most important buying factor. If the schools are weak, buyers will look elsewhere, which lowers the demand for an area. With reduced demand properties may have a tough time selling which in turn reduces property values. On the flip side with strong school’s buyers are more inclined to purchase in the area which has an overall positive impact.
Employment/Foreclosure Rates. The national number of foreclosures has recently fallen to a five year low. In many markets foreclosures are now a thing of the past. However, in some pockets foreclosures are still an issue and weigh the market down. It is important that you do some homework at town hall and see where your market stands. While you are there you should also research the local unemployment numbers. As is the case with foreclosures unemployment has stabilized in recent years. The stronger the local employment numbers the stronger the local economy and the higher the property values. If unemployment is still an issue it may be a sign that the neighborhood still has a way to go before it fully turns around.
Highway Access.There is always a fine line between privacy and convenience. As a buyer, you need to balance which is most important for you. You can have all the privacy you want but the trade-off is that you are away from the main part of town. This could mean a longer commute to work or a longer distance from where you enjoy spending time. A key factor in a neighborhood is the proximity to highway access. Living in the middle of nowhere is great until you have to get up on Monday and drive twenty minutes to the highway.
Food/Shopping. Do you enjoy going out? For some buyers, the nightlife is a main consideration. Instead of looking at specific shops and restaurants look at the direction the area is heading. If there has been a recent influx of entertainment the neighborhood is on the rise. If there are increased vacancies it can be a red flag that the market is in trouble which will have a trickle down effect to property demand and values.
Where you live plays a huge role in your purchase. Always know as much as you can about the neighborhood prior to starting your home buying search.