Love-struck Freddy in the musical “My fair Lady” expressed the feelings for a desirable neighborhood perfectly. “People stop and stare. They don’t bother me, for there’s nowhere else on earth that I would rather be.” Many of us agree with him that there are neighborhoods where at least the pavement stays beneath your feet, but little else, and then there are neighborhoods where we would rather be than in any other place.
There are some rational and proper reasons to investigate the neighborhood before taking the emotional plunge. Here’s how to choose the perfect neighborhood for you and your family.
Map the neighborhood
Use any one of the number of online mapping applications (Google, Mapquest, etc.) to enter the street address of a residence you are considering. These apps should include both a map and a satellite feature. The satellite feature will be useful to see the bird’s-eye view. Are the lots of trees? Open space? Is there a business nearby that may take street parking? Does it appear there is heavy street traffic (is the house on a main road or deep in a quiet neighborhood)? Use the street view feature if available.
What amenities are available nearby? Shopping, schools, parks and recreation are key features that are desirable too have nearby, but maybe not immediately next door. You can observe traffic patterns and anticipate if there are times of day when just getting out of the driveway may be a major exercise.
Go to the neighborhood morning, afternoon and evening
Some neighborhoods change their character through the day. Be certain your chosen neighborhood maintains a character with which you want to associate at all times. Daylight can be deceiving. How are the streetlights at night? Does the street fill up with parked cars? If you’re an older couple seeking peace and quiet, and the neighborhood is filled with screaming children at play, you cannot blame them, but are you up for that commotion?
As long as you have made the effort, get out of the car and stroll through the neighborhood. Is it clean and tidy? Do the neighbors take care of their properties? Is there a neighbor who operates a home-based business with the enterprise scattered around the front yard and the street? Is there a derelict house in the neighborhood that may depress surrounding home values?
Talk to the neighbors
Are they friendly and outgoing? Do they like the neighborhood? Would they want to live anywhere else? How safe is the neighborhood at all times of day and night? People in an ideal neighborhood will gladly talk-up their pleasures and even some distractions. How well did the people in the residence you are considering take care of their property? This hands-on intelligence is better than money can buy.
Check neighborhood safety
Even the best neighborhoods may be victim to break-ins and vandalism. This should be part of the discussion with neighbors as outlined above. But also investigate the nature and incident of potential crime in the neighborhood. There are apps available online that will identify these crime trends such as sex offenders, noise, break-ins and vandalism.
Your stroll through the neighborhood noted above should look for tell-tale signs of crime potential. Do neighbors have bars on their windows? Are there dark passages between homes where break-ins could easily occur? On the other hand, are there signs indicating a neighborhood watch system? Do neighbors employ security systems?
Is the neighborhood mature or still developing?
If there are open lots in the neighborhood, check the zoning restrictions for the neighborhood to be certain that the lot next door to the home you are considering to buy will not become a convenience store or a gas station. What does that lot look like right now? Does the owner take care of the property so that it is not a potential gathering place for rats, mice and other vermin who could just as likely invade the house next door; your potential house? What about other empty lots in the neighborhood? Is there a reason why these lots are empty? If the neighborhood is still in development, the answer to these questions is elementary, but they are still worth asking. This is another subject worthy of discussion with neighbors.
With a little sleuth, knowing how to investigate the neighborhood where you want to live will leave you singing like Freddy. There will be nowhere else you would rather be.