Five ways to get to know a neighborhood

by Jody Wise on 8/15/12

New in town or moving neighborhoods?

I was making a personal investment in real estate and saw the process from the buyers’ eyes and it was eye opening. The particular neighborhood was new to me, but the decision boiled down to the neighborhood so I had to do a deep dive into the area. Was it the right fit for me and my 11 year old? What were the endgame plans? Would an investment there make sense financially?

Here are the 5 things I personally did to get to know the area and get comfortable with the purchase:

1. Walk around. This may sound pretty basic, but it is essential. Go out at different times of day and night. In the morning you will meet the dog walkers and commuters. In the day (especially in the summer) you will see the families out and about. At night, a walk will give you the feel for the neighborhood after dark. If you are a dog owner, walking around at night is a critical test. When you encounter people, ask them about the neighborhood: how long they have lived there, where did they move from, if they ever moved would they stay or move to a different area and why?

2. Eat in local restaurants. Find the place the neighbors go for breakfast, lunch or dinner and go there. Sit at the counter and talk to people. Find the best place for dinner and eat at the bar. Ask about neighborhood things to do, schools, shopping, gyms, whatever you are into.

3. Do the numbers. Are you planning to stay in the neighborhood for 3 years, 5 years, 10 years? What is the appreciation outlook? If you moved would it make sense to keep the home and rent it? What are the rents and the rental price trend for that neighborhood? Are you comfortable with the value you are getting and the prospects for being able to sell it when you want to?

4. Do the commute. Make sure to test drive the commute to work or school at the time you typically go. Test a few different routes. There is nothing like spoiling the feel of a new home than sitting in traffic forever to get there.

5. Surf the web. There are tons of sites that can help you investigate activities, crime statistics and demographics.

A Realtor can show you homes and advise on value but we cannot tell you if the neighborhood is a good fit for you. You have to do the work and find that out for yourself because you are the only judge that matters. So go explore!

Jody Wise is affiliated with Prudential Rubloff. Visit her profile or her website for more information.

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