How will you know you have found the right home to purchase? It's when you love both the house and the neighborhood it's in. Finding the right neighborhood is one of the top home-buying decisions you'll make, because you will never love your home if you don't like the neighborhood.
To decide where you would like to live, you will need to do some soul-searching and some investigating.
Take a look at your lifestyle and make a list of what's important. Do you like to walk to get coffee in the morning? What kind of leisure activities do you enjoy? Do you like to get outside and hike or do you prefer to head to a museum or library? Do you have children or are planning on having them? Would you like to get involved in a lot of activities or are you more of a loner?
Once you have a list of priorities, it's time to do some sleuthing to find out if a neighborhood fits your needs. Here are a few things to look for:
If you are looking at a brand-new community, find out if there will be a grocery store nearby. What about restaurants, coffee shops and gas stations? How far away will they be and how long will it take to get there?
If walkability is important, see if the area has sidewalks. If not, it is probably not a pedestrian-friendly area. In a more established community, go to the area shopping centers at different times of the day to check out the crowds and accessibility.
If you're house hunting on the weekends, you won't get a clear idea of what traffic is like when you need to get to and from work. Go at the hours you will be commuting to get a true picture of the time it will take.
Your plans and that of the community are both important to consider. If you are thinking about starting a family, then you might want to consider an area that is kid-friendly with lots of young families, parks and playgrounds. That second-floor condo might not look as appealing if you need to get a stroller up there every day.
See what's in store for the community at the planning office. Will that nearby open space turn into a big-box store? Is the developer planning another subdivision that will take away the quiet hillside views? Nearby road expansions could bring in a lot of traffic and noise. If you're looking for a quiet neighborhood, make sure that it will stay that way.
Even if you don't have school-age children, buying in a neighborhood with good schools is still beneficial. Good schools are good for the resale value of your home.
Master-planned communities come with a wide range of recreational options, from hiking trails to swimming pools and barbecue areas. See what's available and what you think you will use.
If a neighborhood has everything from a rec center to swimming pools and a tennis court and you aren't planning on using any of it, you might want to consider a different neighborhood. The more amenities, the higher the homeowner association fees, and you don't want to pay for things you don't use.
Get out of the car and go for a walk during times when people are home. Stop, chat and ask questions. You'll get insiders' information — and find out whether they're people you would like to live next to.