Considering your next home purchase? Keep these five things in mind when determining which neighborhood is right for you.
Falling in love with a home may involve incredible curb appeal, a fancy gourmet kitchen, or resort-worthy outdoor spaces. However, it pays to look beyond the house and ensure that the neighborhood you choose is the right one for you and your family.
What are your thoughts on homeowners’ associations? Are you looking for the hustle and bustle of an urban neighborhood or the peace and quiet of a country lane? Do you have children or might you soon? All of these questions and more should be part of your analysis as you consider which neighborhood to choose as the setting for your next home. Let’s dive into some key considerations that are top of mind for many prospective homebuyers:
For many professionals, a commute represents hours of frustration and wasted time. Whether you spend those hours sitting in traffic on a congested freeway or navigating a maze of overheated commuter trains and subway stations, a long commute can reduce your job satisfaction and stretch your workweek by hours. In fact, a recent study found that Americans spend an average of nine full calendar days commuting each year.
Though the recent COVID-19 pandemic has meant that more people are working from home, essential workers and others back in the office will want to consider what the commute to and from their new neighborhood is like. However, looking at homes on a weekend open house won’t necessarily tell you what you need to know about the commute. Once you’ve identified your target neighborhood, take a day testing the commute from there to your workplace at your normal times, both in the morning and evening. This can help you determine whether you need to re-think your neighborhood choice in favor of something closer by. If that’s not possible, you can also use a map app to assess traffic congestion or train waiting times to project commute times based on your typical work schedule.
For many homebuyers, schools are the single most important determinant of the ideal neighborhood. And even if you haven’t yet started a family, it might be something that’s on the horizon in the future. Finding a great school system takes research—both through online searching and word-of-mouth recommendations. Choosing the right school may mean reviewing a variety of factors: average test scores, quality of sports programs, or access to specialty curricula like STEM or arts initiatives. If your children are young, you may be focused primarily on elementary schools in the area. However, if you are looking for a place to settle down and stay until your children graduate, don’t forget to look at the middle and high school options in the district.
If your children attend private schools, you won’t be constrained by school districts, but you should find out the transportation options for your school and how long it will take to drive your kids there. If your children are also involved in activities, you may want to find a neighborhood close by so that you avoid spending too much time ferrying them around!
Amenities can mean a number of things depending on the type of home you’re looking for. Consider the following:
Condos and Co-ops Condos often feature recreational amenities including pools, fitness studios, and tennis courts. Luxury high-rises may include additional features such as a rooftop social space or dog park, a large media room, or event spaces. Retirement condos may focus more on a country club atmosphere and include planned social functions, clubs, and activities.
Neighborhoods with Homeowners Associations (HOA) Neighborhoods governed by a Homeowner’s Association can vary widely in terms of the amenities they offer. In some HOA neighborhoods, the association is primarily concerned with ensuring that the homes and common spaces are well-maintained and uniform. They may be involved with services like exterior maintenance and lawn care. Other HOAs provide a host of resort-style recreational facilities, social functions, and activities.
Non-HOA Neighborhoods When someone refers to amenities in non-HOA neighborhoods, they are generally talking about the lifestyle in the community and desirable local features. These may include nearby shopping or dining, public parks and greenspaces, and even features like sidewalks and street lamps. In coastal or resort communities with competitive real estate markets, these public spaces might be quite lavish and upscale, while in small towns or rural areas they may be more modest.
Many people love the charm of a home in a historic district. However, it is important to be mindful of the restrictions imposed on homeowners in many historic neighborhoods or in historically significant homes. In some historic areas, a local board oversees all repairs and improvements to ensure that they are in keeping with the historical character of the area. If you are thinking of buying an historic home, be sure to find out how much control you will have over your property—especially if you are considering expanding or updating the home to suit your personal needs and style.
This might seem simple, but the atmosphere of a neighborhood goes a long way towards determining how content you will be there. Are you a young, single professional? You may prefer a high-energy neighborhood close to work and featuring all of the coolest nightlife. Are you a young family with small children? A cul-de-sac in a suburban neighborhood may be just right. Are you retired? You may be looking for a resort-style condominium community with great walkability and a host of amenities.
Now take it further. Are you particularly interested in the arts? You might be happier in an area with galleries and performance venues. Are you a workaholic? Being in a high-rise condo close to the office may matter most. Are you an avid runner? A neighborhood with miles of trails could be just what you’re looking for. The neighborhood vibe can speak to your lifestyle, aesthetic, hobbies, and interests – after all, buying a home is a big deal, and you should make sure you’re primed to be happy there once the new paint has dried and the movers’ truck has left the driveway!
Are you just starting your home search? Have you already identified your perfect neighborhood? Are you ready to make an offer on your dream home? Wherever you are in your homebuying journey, Simplist has more than 50,000 options available to help you find the perfect mortgage for you. Get started today–speak to a licensed loan expert or begin the application process.