Location, Location, Location: How to find all the details about the neighborhood before you buy

The Jones’ family found their dream home and moved into it with all of the excitement and enthusiasm of a kid on Christmas morning. After a long and hectic day of unpacking, they collapsed into bed anticipating a good night’s rest. Unfortunately, they were shocked and dismayed when they began to hear the very obvious noise of trucks roaring along the inter-state highway situated less than a half mile to the rear of their home. Too late!

This unfortunate situation exemplifies the need to focus on location when contemplating the purchase of a home. A ten million dollar mansion isn’t worth a dime if it’s sitting next to a toxic waste dump. This example is far-fetched and outrageous, but it makes the point that finding the right location is certainly as important as finding the right house.

How do you investigate a potential neighborhood? There are a number of factors and issues to be considered in your evaluation. Some of them can be covered merely through visual observation; others will have to be explored with the assistance of community and government organizations.

One of your first and most significant concerns should be the crime rate. If every other house on the block is being burglarized every other month, you might want to look elsewhere. Talk to a spokesperson of the local law enforcement agency. Ask for a listing of their monthly crime stats and a copy of their year ending report. When talking to the spokesperson about crime rates, ask about their response times in your area. If it’s over five minutes, ask why. If the community has a neighborhood watch group or a neighborhood citizens’ security patrol, attend one of their meetings or speak with their group representatives.

How far is your new neighborhood from your place of employment? How far is too far? Bottom line: check the driving time and traffic patterns, both coming and going, by driving the route you’ll take. Are there any activities or facilities in the area that will make the trip more unpleasant or time consuming on specific days of the week? As an example, is there a bridge that backs up on Friday afternoons as people rush to their weekend retreats?

If you have children, or anticipate having them, you’ll want to check out the schools in the area. Visit the schools and talk to the Principals or school counselors. Ask about class sizes, bus service, curriculum and even school menus. If your child is a gifted student, you’ll want to inquire about accelerated courses. If your child needs special Ed opportunities, ask about them. Knowing about your child’s school is one of your primary responsibilities as a parent.

This may sound a bit picky, but you should visit and evaluate your local markets, shops and restaurants. Do they sell quality products? Is there a convenient place to purchase daily necessities such as milk, luncheon items, coffee, etc.? Do the local restaurants suit your taste? The answers to these questions may not factor substantially into your moving decision, but they are part of the equation and should at least be recognized and considered.

Availability of community services should not be overlooked. Is there a good hospital in the immediate vicinity? Do they have an emergency room? How about parks and a library?

You should visit the neighborhood at various times of the day and night to check for sounds, smells, heavy traffic and the presence of any activities that you might find offensive as a resident. Sometimes the complexion of a neighborhood changes at night. Drive around after dark and look for the presence of undesirables lounging about in public places. Try to get a sense and feeling of the neighborhood.

Finally, you will want to find out if the community has a community association. If so, visit the association and ask about membership dues, restrictions and covenants. If the representative is forthcoming, ask if there are any problems in the area that you as a prospective new resident should consider.

You are about to make one of the biggest financial decisions of your life. Don’t be timid. Ask questions, make notes and weigh all the pro’s and con’s before deciding. 


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