Finding the Perfect Neighborhood
By Broderick Perkins
 
 
 
 
A home is not an island.

The surrounding neighborhood is just as important because it can have a big impact on your lifestyle -- safety, available amenities, and convenience, all play their part, according to the National Association of Realtors (NAR).

NAR also says you can keep your home value buoyed if you find the right neighborhood.

And you can find the right neighborhood by getting information direct from the best sources -- rather than from second hand and often incomplete data bases professing to offer you one stop shopping for all your neighborhood checking needs.

• Make a list of the activities -- movies, health clubs, churches -- you engage in regularly and stores you visit frequently. See how far you would have to travel from each neighborhood you’re considering to engage in your most common activities.

• Check out the school district. The education department in your town can provide information on test scores, class size, percentage of students who attend college, and special enrichment programs. Even if you don’t have children, a house in a good school district will be easier to sell in the future.

• Check crime. Ask the police department for neighborhood crime statistics -- not only the level of crime, but also the type -- burglaries, armed robberies -- any trends of increasing or decreasing crime and the location of crime.

• Look for economic stability. Your local city or county economic development office can tell you if income and property values in a neighborhood are stable, rising or falling, the percentage of homes to apartments. Apartments don’t necessarily diminish value, but they can indicate transient populations. Check for vacant or blighted businesses or homes.

• Consider resale value. A local real estate agent or trade association can give you information about price trends, inventories, selling times and other information that can indicate how well your home's value will hold up.

• Hit the streets. Narrow your focus to several neighborhoods and do a "walk-through" of each. Pick a warm day when people are out and available for chatting. Look for tidy, well maintained homes, quiet streets and other indicators of neighborhood stability.