It’s the barista at your local cafe that always remembers your name. It’s the neighbor next door who you trust with a set of spare keys. It’s the things that make your neighborhood a home. When looking to buy your first house, it’s important to look at more than just the number of rooms and size of the kitchen—choosing a neighborhood to live in will make up a great part of your living experience, too. Use our tips below to make sure the house you choose sits in the neighborhood that’s right for you.

Imagine Your Dream Neighborhood

The first step in finding the perfect neighborhood for your home is figuring out exactly what’s important to you. Are you one of those people who dreads commuting? Then distance from your place of work might be a top priority. Are your Sunday morning hikes essential? Then you’re going to need a neighborhood with nearby parks and recreation facilities.

Consider how important walking is to you—some might feel the need to be a few steps away from bars, restaurants, movie theaters, and other forms of entertainment. If that’s you, walkscore.com will give you an exact score for the walkability of your potential neighborhood. Others might want to be as far away as possible from a loud bar scene or whizzing traffic. Whatever your preferences, making up a list early in your home search will help you end up in the neighborhood that’s right for you.

Do the Drive-Through

The best way to get a feel for a potential neighborhood is to do a drive-through and to ask the locals about the area. Seeing the neighborhood with your own two eyes can give you a feel for how comfortable you’ll be living there and can give you insight into the value of the neighborhood. Do the residents keep up their lawns? Take out their trash in tidy bins? These are all things you can see from the comfort of your car.

It’s tempting to fall in love with an area after a Sunday daytime drive-by, but it’s also important to visit a neighborhood at different times of the day. You’ll be able to see if there are friendly neighborhood chats during the day, light traffic at five in the evening, and well-lit streets at night. Want additional insider info about your new neighborhood? Ask the waiter at the local cafe, or the attendant at the nearby gas station. Who knows, they just might be future neighbors one day!

Hello, High Property Values

Neighborhood can be a significant indicator of whether the property value of a home will rise or fall. Paying attention to the features of yours will ensure that the home you buy will bring you returns for years to come.

Access to jobs and amenities are key. Is there low unemployment surrounding the sunny two-story home you just saw? Did a new fitness center just pop up across the street from the beautiful home with the red door that you fell in love with? High employment and easy access to things like parks, restaurants, retail centers, supermarkets, and great schools means you just may have hit the jackpot.

Pay attention to the schools in your neighborhood, even if you’re single and childless; a fantastic education system in the area could help raise the property value of the home. Dog parks are another great neighborhood amenity—even if you’re more of a cat person, chances are when you’re ready to sell your house one day, potential buyers will be happy to have a dog park nearby.

Research, Research, Research

On the other hand, there are some neighborhood characteristics that can bring down your property’s value. Luckily, it’s pretty easy to identify them with a bit of research. For example, a school with a low graduation rate and high student to teacher ratio can bring down your home’s value. Other factors that can bring down property value include strip clubs, cemeteries, and funeral homes—though none of these will have as much effect as a struggling school. That said, if you’re okay living near any of these things and are planning to live in your home for a number of years, don’t worry too much about proximity to any of these things. 

Be sure to check with the selling agent at the open house, as well as your own realtor and any online resources to explore the facilities around the neighborhood you’re exploring to ensure you find the area that’s right for you.

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