What to Look for In a Neighborhood When Buying a House

Finding the perfect home typically involves finding the ideal neighborhood. After all, no matter how much you love your house, it sits among other houses that you will also, eventually, have to learn to love. So why not make it happen from the get-go?

It may sound easier said than done––after all, how can you tell if you’re going to like your neighbors before you move in? And what if you don’t have kids? Why should you care about great schools? The answers are more revealing than you might think. Here are some of the appraisal factors you should look for in a neighborhood when buying a house:

A neighborhood with good schools

Believe it or not, this is always a vital asset to homebuyers––even if you don’t have children. Schools have a lot to do with the resale value of a home, so buying a property in a community with high points in education and diverse school locations can be a very smart investment, as future buyers may have children. While your real estate agent should be able to assist with schooling details of your desired neighborhood, you can also do some of the work yourself by visiting the local school district’s website and searching for the breakdown of nearby institutions. These report cards will include information about the school’s student body, test scores, graduation rates, and demographics.

A neighborhood with actual people in it

Here’s a quick and simple tip for gauging the close-knit-ness of a community or neighborhood: drive around in the early evening of a weeknight while it is still light out. Are people outside? Barbecuing? Walking dogs? Are children playing in the front yards? Seeing people on sidewalks and in their driveways is a good indication that they feel safe in their neighborhood and, therefore, enjoy where they live. Safety in numbers means that you will likely enjoy the area, too.

And try taking it a step further: don’t be afraid to talk to people. Visit local grocery stores, parks, and community centers and engage with residents by revealing yourself to be a potential home buyer. Chances are, you might make a few friends before you even move in.

A neighborhood with low crime

That said, looks can sometimes be deceiving. Don’t buy into a neighborhood without doing a thorough check of the area’s crime rates. Just because the people are enjoying themselves outside doesn’t mean that there can’t possibly be any issues behind closed doors. Check with the municipal police department by visiting websites or following up with your real estate agent. Ask for statistics on gun violence, break-ins (property and car), and any history of grow-ops in the area. Don’t let a few bad apples ruin your dream neighborhood, but at the very least, know what you’re potentially moving into.

A neighborhood with a good balance of owners and renters

Despite the obvious financial differences, neighborhoods with high homeownership rates tend to be more stable than those with a surplus of renters. This is because homeowners tend to take better care of their external property than renters (since they actually own their homes), which is a big deal for resale value. A neighborhood full of houses with cosmetic inefficiencies tends to put off potential buyers (this is, of course, not to say that all renters are like this) and pulls down the overall value. A good rule of thumb is to look for communities where less than 25% of the homes are rented.

A neighborhood with rising home prices…

A community made up of homes, homes that have experienced increased value over the years is always a good sign. In fact, it’s one of the most prominent markers of a great neighborhood. Your real estate agent is the best source for sharing such figures with you while also being able to compare local home prices against the national growth rates.

…and one with rising household incomes

If that same community of highly valued houses also includes multiple healthy household incomes, you’ve likely hit on an incredible area to live. When homeowners earn more money, they tend to have more of it to spend on the upkeep of their properties––which, again, goes back to the benefits of resale value. Nice looking houses, in turn, bumps the prices for the other homes in the area. A quick tip: if you want to know how to gauge your potential neighbors’ median household income, you can visit census websites for the region.