5 Steps to Choosing the Right Neighborhood for Your First Home

Your career is going well, you are financially stable, and you are tired of renting. Sounds like the perfect time to buy your first home. After deciding what you want in a new home and what you can afford to pay, you need to determine where you are going to buy. You might already have a good idea of the area in which you would like to live, but it’s still smart to step through the process of evaluating a few neighborhoods. Let’s step through the process of choosing the right neighborhood for your first home.

Step One: Know What You Want in a Neighborhood

What exactly are you looking for in a neighborhood? Is quiet and sleepy what you desire or is an area that is packed full of excitement more to your liking? Do you need access to public transportation? Take the time to make a list of what is important to you and your family. Be sure to get input from your spouse and to consider your children now and in the future. Be sure to prioritize your list so that you know the areas in which you can compromise and those that are not flexible. Use your list as a measurement tool when you start evaluating neighborhoods.

Step Two: Look at the Map

Pinpoint your work location on the map and decide how far you are willing to drive or ride to and from your job every day. Draw a circle around your work, using your maximum commute as the radius. The area inside of the circle is where you should begin your search. Your search area may be narrowed further by other factors like the need to live near public transportation, the interstate, extended family, or other locations that are important to you.

Step Three: Do Your Homework

Now is the time to refine your list of potential neighborhoods even further. Here are some ways you can carry on your research:

  • Ask around and get other people’s opinions on the areas. You are likely to find friends, family, and co-workers that are very familiar with the neighborhoods you are considering. If possible, talk to potential neighbors.
  • Look in your local paper for community news, and cultural events.
  • Look for local parks and entertainment facilities as well as restaurants, grocery stores, and libraries.
  • Does the area have the items on your family’s list of wants?
  • Get information on the quality of the school system as well as private or parochial schools in the area.
  • Determine if the home prices in the area will fit your target price and budget.

Step Four: Visit the Neighborhood

There is nothing as effective in determining if a neighborhood will be right for you, as actually driving through the area. Here are some things to take note of:

  • Look at the local schools. Would your children need to walk to school or ride a bus? Are the school buildings and grounds well maintained? Not planning on having children? The quality of the local school system will be a big factor in determining the local property values.
  • Visit the neighborhood at different times of the day. You will know if the streets are well lit at night or if traffic is an issue during rush hour. You will see if families and kids spend time in their yards. You will get a good idea of the curb appeal of the homes and whether or not they are being maintained properly.
  • Your first impression counts. Did you like the look and feel of the area?
  • Consider what your lifestyle in the neighborhood would look like. Will you be able to walk your dog? Will the neighborhood be quiet and relaxing or full of energy and entertainment? Your neighborhood should be able to provide you with the lifestyle that you are looking for.
  • Is the neighborhood hip? Why would you care? Young families are the ones determining the next great place to live. They will want cool coffee shops and restaurants. They will want art galleries and musical venues. They will want affordable neighborhoods that are on their way up. If your wants align with theirs, then find the neighborhoods they are moving into.

Step Five: Find your home

Once you’ve found your neighborhood, you can start your home search with the confidence of knowing that you will be happy living in the area. Now is the time to engage a real estate agent to help you with your search.  However, don’t forget to look at local homes for sale in the paper and online. Use the same amount of care in looking for your home as you put into finding the perfect neighborhood and you can’t go wrong.

Bonus Step: Engage an Expert Advisor

If you are buying your first home, you should consider seeking the assistance of an expert on the homebuying process.  Your new home is likely to be the largest investment that you ever make. A non-profit partner, like the HomeOwnership Center of Greater Dayton, will guide you every step of the way. Their experience and advice can prevent you from making common mistakes and empower you to make solid homebuying decisions.

Find out more by calling 937.853.1600 or visiting our Homebuyers page.