When shopping for a new single-family home, most buyers focus on the home itself. But what's going on around the home for sale can often be just as important. What can the neighborhood tell you and why is it important? Here are five key things to look for.
1. Few Homes Are for Sale. For Sale or For Rent signs all around the area can be an indicator that the neighborhood isn't what it used to be. While some people will always be selling or turning homes into rentals at the same time, a mass exodus could be caused by things like declining home values, deterioration in the community, or future commercialization. A tight real estate market, though, is a good sign.
2. People Are Enjoying the Sun. How lively is the area around your potential home? Are people outside walking, playing, and doing business? When homeowners, renters, business persons, and kids feel comfortable moving around, you know the area is safer and that there's a sense of community in the neighborhood. This is an even more effective guide if you return at night.
3. Homes Are Being Improved. While buyers often like to see home improvements and maintenance on the house they plan to buy, how are the homes around it? When it's common to see people building decks, keeping up their yards, replacing windows, and hiring contractors for renovations, owners have reason to invest in their properties and will care more for them.
4. Upscale Businesses Are Thriving. A certain amount of higher-end retail activity — such as coffee shops, boutiques, distilleries, or bookstores — around your neighborhood is a good sign. Retail businesses do their research before buying or starting a business. So if they're moving in and doing well, you don't have to do all the same research to recognize a good spot.
5. City Services Are Obvious. Look beyond individual properties to see how the city or county keeps up the area. Are roads in good repair? Do streetlights work? Are garbage and recycling picked up properly? Are fire and police stations nearby? Does the snowplow come into your neighborhood? Are neighbors reasonably satisfied with services? Homeownership is more enjoyable when you aren't arguing over potholes the entire time.
As you walk or drive around the neighborhood where you plan to buy, it will tell you many things about your future home. By looking for outdoor activity, city services, upscale businesses, and home investments, you're sure to spot a community where you can enjoy a happy home for many years.
To learn more about the homes for sale in your area, talk to a real estate agent.