5 tips for choosing a neighborhood

There's more to weigh than just crime, prices, commute

By Inman News Feed
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 0 | Posted Aug. 18, 2010

Share this Story:

There's more to weigh than just crime, prices, commute

Mary Umberger
Inman News

You're not just buying a house -- you're also buying a neighborhood. Sometimes, though, one resident's "neighborhood glories" are another resident's "neighborhood warts."

Take, for example, close proximity to clubs and nightlife.

For some homebuyers, that would be a turnoff. But a few years ago, Austin, Texas, broker Kimbrough Gray had clients who insisted on being "stumbling distance" from a particular bar.

"They said, 'We don't want to drive after we've gone to our favorite club,' " Gray said. "I'd show them houses, and they'd say, 'If we were drunk, could we find our way home to this house?' "

His clients ended up being happy with their eventual choice. But how is a stranger to a community expected to know the difference between "too close" and "too far"? Or how to know, like Gray's clients, which neighborhood features are truly critical to their personal needs?

Five things to consider when picking a neighborhood:

1. The time of day when you first lay eyes on a prospective house can affect your impression of the neighborhood, so visit at various hours.

"A neighborhood can be totally different at night," said Gray, who has blogged about factors affecting neighborhood choice at Escapesomewhere.com, the website of his brokerage, Vox Real Estate. "If you go somewhere at 1:30 p.m., it may seem OK, but if you go back at night, it (could seem) a bit more sketchy."

The same can be said for neighborhood traffic congestion, which can change dramatically at rush hour -- or traffic on a Saturday can be a different story than on a Tuesday, he said.

2. Neighborhood choice can be a pocketbook issue, and not just because of house prices and property taxes. Commuting costs -- of both time and money -- are critical.

"I'm a Realtor, but we also do a lot of investing, so we move around a lot," Gray said. "I always calculate (in a buying decision) how much I'm going to spend on gas when I'm commuting.

"I've had clients say, 'This house is $10 cheaper on the mortgage (than another house),' but I've had to tell them, 'Yes, but this one is going to cost you $80 more in gas.' "

3. Ask questions of people who already live there.

The locals usually freely offer their opinions of neighborhood safety, noise, school performance, commuting times, etc., he said.

"When I'm dealing with a condo association, I usually stand outside the building and wait to chat with somebody who's just walking around," Gray said. "But I've had clients who will go around and knock on doors."

4. The Internet can be a boon for researching the nitty-gritty.

NeighborhoodScout.com, for example, is a subscription service that offers in-depth looks at such considerations as crime statistics (for 17,000 law-enforcement jurisdictions), school-performance data, and quarterly price-appreciation records of area homes.

Page: 1 2 |Next
Add to favoritesAdd to Favorites PrintPrint Send to friendSend to Friend

COMMENTS

ADD COMMENT

Rate:
(HTML and URLs prohibited)