Aside from choosing the right home for your family, the most important decision you’ll make when buying a house is choosing the neighbourhood you will live in.
Choosing the right community for yourself and your family is an important task, and will require you do to some detective work. Rest assured, however, that the work you put in now will definitely pay off down the road.
Needs And Wants
Thoroughly think through what you want in a neighbourhood. Make a list and decide what your needs and your wants are. Separate the “must-haves” from the “would-be-nice-to-haves”. Not only should you consider your current lifestyle, but you should think about what you will need and want from your home and community in the future. A possible resale of your home at a later date should be something you factor into your decision.
We have compiled a list of some of the things you should consider when beginning the search for your perfect neighbourhood:
1. What type of home are you interested in? Detached or semi-detached? Townhome? Condo? Do you prefer newer homes or those with some history? Knowing this will help steer you toward the neighbourhoods that can offer the type of housing you’re looking for.
2. Do you have children? Are you planning a family? If so, researching the neighbourhood school system will definitely need to be part of your home search. Even if you do not have children or are not planning to, choosing an area with a well-respected school system will raise the value of your property.
3. How important is it for you to live close to your workplace? Are you willing to commute? Do you require public transit?
4. Do you like to get around on foot? Is it important to you that stores, restaurants and other amenities be located within walking distance? Are there certain types of amenities that you would like close by (i.e. favourite coffee shops, grocery stores, specialty retailers, cultural facilities, public transit)
5. Do you enjoy a lively, middle-of-the-action neighbourhood or do you prefer to retreat to a quieter, more relaxed atmosphere at the end of a busy day?
If you are locating to an area that is new to you, you’ll likely have more investigating to do. Once you have narrowed your search and have focused in on a particular neighbourhood that interests you, you can put your detective skills to work by investigating some key areas of interest.
- Schools: research the local public and private schools including elementary, junior and high schools, as well as day care programs you might be interested in. Inquire about class sizes, extra-curricular activities, special needs programs, second language immersion programs, as well as before and after school care, if needed. When possible, visit schools in person so you can get a feel for the areas they are in, the condition of the buildings, etc. · Crime Stats: resources such as www.crimereports.com can give you an idea of the crime stats in the neighbourhoods you are considering. Consult your realtor or the local police department for any additional details/information that you are looking for.
- Amenities: what businesses, services, facilities are available to you and your family? Are there seasonal festivals and events in the area that might interest your family? Consult the local tourism office in person or online to find out about community entertainment/attractions. An active family might be interested in recreational areas for biking, hiking or dog walking, so check with the community or recreation center for more information.
Once you have decided on an area of interest, have a good look at it in person. This is the best way to get a feel for the neighbourhood and its culture. First impressions are important as they will speak to your intuition. Is the neighbourhood inviting? Are the homes well-maintained and have curb appeal? Choosing a neighbourhood that makes you proud will attract future buyers should you sell your home down the road.
Being physically present in the neighbourhood will allow for you to experience the neighbourhood through your senses – is it a quiet area or is it noisy? Can you hear or see traffic? Is the community close to train tracks that are used often? Visiting the neighbourhood several times and at different times of the day will give you a well-rounded idea of what it is normally like. Are there smells coming from local businesses or the homes of neighbours? Are these things likely to bother you or interfere with the enjoyment of your home? Consider the parking situation as well. Do the streets fill up with cars in the evening hours? Are the streets properly lit and do you feel safe? Pay attention to the activity level of the neighbourhood. Are people outdoors being social or do they keep to themselves?
Use local realtors as a resource – they know the area well and can make recommendations based on what is important to you. Many realtors specialize in specific communities or neighbourhoods and they become experts in that area. Their knowledge and assistance can be indispensable.
Speak to people living in the neighbourhood that you are interested in. Ask them what they like about the area, what they would like to see change. Where do they like to go to go for a bite to eat, or shop for the necessities? Also consider talking to people who work in the area at local restaurants, gas stations, grocery stores. They may be able to share information about the community that might interest you.