Location, Location, Location – You’ve probably heard the old real estate mantra “location, location, location,” but the point still bears repeating. Location is crucial. You need to think about the home’s location just as carefully as you do about the house features. Identify what kind of city, community, and neighborhood are right for you. How far are you really willing to commute to your place of employment? How good are the local schools, shopping centers, public transportation, services and other public amenities? Will your new home be next to a vacant lot or a commercial property? Beyond commuting distance to work, you need to evaluate the availability of shopping, police and fire protection, medical facilities, school and day-care, traffic and parking, trash and garbage collection, recreational facilities, places of worship, and other community amenities. Even a picture-perfect dream home can be a mistake if it’s in an undesirable location, and a home in a poor location can be a particularly bad choice if you anticipate reselling the home within a few years.
Characteristics of Good Neighborhoods – Good neighborhoods, like beauty, are in the eyes of the beholder. For example, being near excellent schools is important if you have young children. If, conversely, you’re ready to retire, buying in a peaceful area with outdoor activities may appeal to you, and being next to a noisy junior high school is your nightmare! Personal preferences aside, all good neighborhoods have the following characteristics:
- Amenities – Amenities are special features of a neighborhood that make it an attractive, desirable place to live. Wide streets bordered by stately oak trees, lush green parks, ocean views, quiet cul-de-sacs, parking, and proximity to schools, churches, shopping, restaurants, transportation, playgrounds, and beaches are prime examples of amenities that add value to a neighborhood. The more of these perks a neighborhood has, the better from the perspective of most homebuyers.
- Low crime rates – Most folks today are concerned with crime. As with schools, don’t rely on hearsay or isolated news reports. Communities compile crime statistics, generally by neighborhood.
- Stability – Some communities are in a constant state of flux. Imagine what would happen to property values if a beautiful park replaced a junkyard. How about the reverse — an ugly, multi-story, concrete parking garage appears where there was once a beautiful park?
- Pride of ownership – A home’s cost has no bearing on the amount of pride its owners take in it. Drive through any neighborhood, posh or modest, and you see in a flash whether the folks who live there are proud of their homes. Property values sag when homeowners no longer take pride in their property. Avoid declining neighborhoods which display the red flags of dispirited owners — poorly kept houses, junk-filled yards, abandoned cars on the street, many absentee owners renting houses, high rates of vandalism and crime, and so on.