You have prepared your finances, been pre-qualified by a lender, attended homebuyer education, enlisted a REALTOR® and now you are ready to begin the fun part of buying a home. With the help of your REALTOR®, you will start looking to find the perfect home for your family.
Finding the Perfect Neighborhood
It’s important to think about where you want to live and the various neighborhood attributes that are important to you and your family. Safety, available amenities and convenience are all important factors.
- Make a list of the activities—movies, health club, church—you engage in regularly and stores you visit frequently. See how far you would have to travel to those activities from each neighborhood you are considering.
- Check out the school district. The school system in your town can probably provide information on test scores, class size, percentage of students who attend college and special enrichment programs. If you have school-age children, also consider paying a visit to schools in the neighborhoods you’re considering. Even if you don’t have children, a home in a good school district will be easier to sell in the future.
- Find out if the neighborhood is safe. Ask the police department for neighborhood crime statistics. Consider not only the number of crimes but also the type—burglaries, armed robberies—and the trend of increasing or decreasing crime. Also, is crime centered in only one part of the neighborhood, such as near a retail area?
- Determine if the neighborhood is economically stable. Check with your local city economic development office to see if income and property values in the neighborhood are stable or rising. What is the ratio of homes to apartments? Apartments don’t necessarily diminish value, but they do mean a more transient population. Do you see vacant businesses or homes that have been for sale for months?
- See if you’ll make money. Ask a local REALTOR® for information about price appreciation trends in the neighborhood. Although past performance is no guarantee of future results, this information may give you a sense of how good an investment your home will be. A REALTOR® or the government planning agency also may be able to tell you about planned developments or other changes in the neighborhood—like a new school or highway—that might affect value.
- See for yourself. Once you’ve narrowed your focus to two or three neighborhoods, go there and walk around. Are homes tidy and well maintained? Are streets quiet? Pick a warm day if you can and chat with people working or playing outside. Are they friendly? Are there children to play with your family?
Types of Homes
When you think of purchasing a home, you probably think of a single-family home with a yard. However, there are many types of homes for you to consider.
- Single family – May be stand alone or attached to another home; you own the land around the home and can do as you please with it.
- Duplex – Two homes attached to each other on a single lot; you own the complete home (both parts) and surrounding land.
- Planned Unit Development – Homes are part of a subdivision with common areas shared by the community. In PUDs there are usually restrictions about what you can do to your property. You’ll probably pay a fee to a homeowners association.
- Condominium – Looks like apartments in that the home is attached to others and you share common areas. The homeowners’ association maintains community property, and you will pay dues to the association.