Do You Know How to Choose A Good Neighborhood?

Why are neighborhoods important?  There are many reasons.  Municipalities often try to plan or create neighborhoods, but more often than not, neighborhoods evolve through the normal everyday actions of people.  Neighborhoods play an important integral role in forming community and social interaction.  Defining a neighborhood can help create the quality of life style you desire. 

When you start to think about buying a new home, you should evaluate neighborhoods before you start looking at specific homes.  Everybody’s needs and tastes are different.  Property characteristics that are important to one person searching for a home might not be important for another.   Regardless of particular tastes there are important factors to consider before you buy, such as:  researching the area schools, comparing property values, observing traffic flow, checking out crime rates, and taking notice of neighborhood conditions or development.  

First, research schools and see where they stand in relationship to other schools in the area.  This decision can be crucial for the social and educational development of your children.  Even if you do not have children and do not plan on having any, it is always beneficial to live in an area where the educational system maintains high standards.  Excellent schools often denote a community that cares, and living in a community like that typically translates into higher property demand.

Usually there is a correlation between the quality of schools and property values. What are the property values in the area you are looking at?  How do they compare with other surrounding areas?  Your Realtor will be able to give you a market analysis and comparison of properties in the neighborhoods of interest.   

There is often the consideration of traffic.  Even if you are looking for a home in a busy city, some streets are thoroughfares and others are quieter pockets off the beaten path.  Some people prefer to be in convenient downtown locations, regardless of the traffic and noise.  Proximity to schools, shops, hospitals, public transportation, beaches, parks and cultural activities are always important considerations.  However, there are often areas that can provide both convenience and serenity.  In general, we believe most people would enjoy living in a quiet location with few distractions.  Whether you are one who likes the hustle and bustle, or one who would rather just tune out, it is important to consider the traffic in the area you like before you make any decisions.  

Of course, checking the crime rate in an area is imperative.  Persistent, on- going crime problems are always a sign of a less desirable neighborhood.  To keep abreast, take note of articles in local news papers regarding acts of crime in an area.  There are web sites that indicate where police activities have occurred.  You can also ask your local Realtor for their opinions.  

Look around, are homes being remodeled or rebuilt in the neighborhood, or do things appear to be in a state of disrepair and decay?   If you notice a high rate of new development, it could be a good sign.  Look for neighborhoods that are likely to become highly sought after in the coming years.  These communities are often contiguous with already desirable locations.  Ask your Realtor how long properties remain on the market; in hot areas the market moves quickly. Consider perhaps a smaller home or a condominium in a more desirable neighborhood.  This way you may be able to purchase in a prime neighborhood that you could not otherwise be able to afford, and will enjoy greater appreciation in the future.



This article was published in the San Francisco Examiner.

Articles are written by Eric Ruxton and Larry Aikins, owners of Terrace Realty, Inc. and Terrace Associates, Inc. in Redwood City. Terrace has been in business more than 55 years and in addition to being an independent Brokerage Company, also owns and operates rental properties.