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Illustration of a house.
Illustration of a house.
Illustration of a house.

Published May 22, 2015.
Updated May 21, 2019.

Look for a neighborhood.

Buying a home means more than choosing between granite countertops and a two-car garage. It's about moving to a neighborhood that can make your life better or worse for years.

Before you shop for a home, consider shopping for a neighborhood. It takes longer at the start, but you’ll be glad you looked beyond the listing photos to find a place that suits your lifestyle, values, and character. Eight tips:

  1. To get to the heart of what will work for you, make a list what you think you want ― and then argue against it. For example, you might think want to live in the country. But what about the cloud of dust that blows in with every passing truck?
  2. Use online sources to glean information about schools, development, crime, government, weather patterns, and other issues. Locals may be reluctant to talk about the controversial convenience store opening up at the end of the block, but if it was in the news or discussed in a neighborhood forum, you’ll find it online.
  3. Study age demographics. If you’re retired, you might not want to be sandwiched between young families with children. If you have a family, you might want to live in a neighborhood where children can play safely in the yard.
  4. Ask around: What do friends, family, and co-workers say about certain neighborhoods? Are they known for holiday lights or power outages? Block parties or crime?
Imagine what the neighborhood will look like in 10 years.
  1. Walk the neighborhoods under consideration. Get out of your car to see what people do on a typical Saturday. Are they friendly or fearful? Playing outside or holing up indoors?
  2. Once you've identified your top neighborhoods, hang out at the local coffee shop or another gathering place. You'll learn about the people who live in the neighborhood, their concerns, and what they're doing to make a difference.
  3. Once you've identified a possible home, go meet the neighbors. You'll be surprised what you'll learn if you introduce yourself as the person who's thinking about moving in next door. If their first reaction is to bark, "Keep your kids out of my yard," you'll know you'd have some work ahead of you. But if they ask, "Can we help you move in?" you've already made a friend.
  4. Imagine what the neighborhood will look like in 10 years. How your neighborhood evolves during the next decade will affect the value of your home and your enthusiasm for living there longer.

A great neighborhood takes years to develop. It's worth taking time to find one that suits you — so your new-homeowner grin lasts long after moving day.

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