5 Tips for Picking the Best Neighborhood
Let’s face it….finding the perfect home is a big task! But, finding the neighborhood where that home is located might be even more of a challenge! You have to think about the location, commute times, schools, crime rates, and more! Well…to help you with this decision, here are 5 Tips for Picking the Best Neighborhood.
Tip #1: Picture YOUR PERFECT Neighborhood
What the heck does do you mean? Well, take a look at yourself, and your lifestyle.
What would you want your perfect neighborhood to look like? Picture how you would like a typical day or weekend to look like? Think about what is MOST important, keeping in mind you might have to have some give or take on certain things.
Here are some questions to ask yourself:
- How far do you want to drive? (Look at the traffic patterns to get to and from work)
- What type of home do you want? (single family, townhome or condo)
- How far is it to Hartsfield Jackson International Airport? (if you have to travel for work)
- Are you close to a MARTA (transit) station?
- What amenities are close by? (shopping, grocery, bank)
- Do you want those amenities to be walkable? (think leaving the car parked for the weekend!)
- Do you have kids or planning for them in the future? What about pets? (yard or a dog park nearby)
- Would you prefer a more established neighborhood, or maybe something new?
Tip #2: Narrow Your Search to a Specific City (or Neighborhood)
Here in Metro Atlanta, you can “drill down” to a specific city (think Sandy Springs, Decatur, Chamblee or Vinings) and then you can get specific as to the neighborhoods (here they are often referred to as sub-divisions). Some areas in Metro Atlanta are just a neighborhood, and not defined as a specific city. Think Druid Hills, Garden Hills, Buckhead, Midtown Atlanta…these are neighborhoods or areas, but not their own city. As you look at these, keep in mind if you will need to go to the office daily, or only a couple times a week. Traffic in Atlanta can be challenging depending on where you are coming from / going to!
Tip #3: Details, Details, Details
AWESOME! We (I love helping my clients discover areas they may not have known about before!) had narrowed down the neighborhood(s) you think are most ideal for you. Notice I said neighborhoods….. it’s a good idea to have a couple options in case you can’t find the right home in one neighborhood…we have another direction we can work on!
Now, you can get into the details of the neighborhood. We may have a Community Guide, or Community Pages here on our site for where you are looking. But, there are lots of tools at your disposal…one of them being Mr. Google! You can search for anything that is important to you and determine what is available in that neighborhood or city. How many grocery stores, or perhaps a certain kind of store like Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods is important. We have a Relocation Guide on our sister website, MyMidtownMojo.com, and it is ever evolving and changing. Also, you can just ask US! We are more than happy to help you find resources for the information and questions you may have!
Now, take that information, and break it down into the important points:
Schools: What is the school “cluster?” Meaning Elementary, which goes to Middle, which goes to High School. What are the school ratings? Good school ratings are a sign of a good neighborhood, and also help property values! Will you need daycare for a toddler? What’s close by?
Crime Rates: There are numerous websites that can help you with this information. And they can change, so just ask us for some resources for this. We have a great app on our phones!
Neighborhood Association or HOA: Here in Georgia, and especially the Metro Atlanta area, your newer subdivisions (single family homes and townhomes) will have a homeowner’s association. Some of these can have some pretty strict rules on what you can, or CAN’T do! For example, they can dictate the color you can paint your home…and we have even seen where you have to have your immediate neighbors sign off on it as well! Now that might seem like an overkill on rules, but if you just spent $500-800,000 on a home, would it be nice to know that your neighbor can’t paint their house bright yellow with purple trim and a green front door? Also, there will be a fee involved with and HOA…it could be a small annual fee to cover landscaping at the community entrance, to a much higher monthly fee to cover amenities like a pool, clubhouse, tennis courts, etc. If you don’t think you will use those kinds of amenities, then this would be a neighborhood to pass on. In condominium buildings, and HOA is required to maintain the common areas of the building. And it is based on the square footage of your condo.
Tip #4: Be a Detective and Check It Out!
You need to visit the neighborhood, and not just with your REALTOR®! Visiting the neighborhood…SEVERAL times …. is how you will really get to know it! And details, details, details!
Go at different times of the day. Are you going to have a commute? They consider being in the neighborhood at 7 or 8AM when you would normally have to leave for work and make that drive! What’s it really like? Will you want to make that every day? Or is it only a couple times a week, if you can tele-commute.
What’s your first impression? Do people keep their lawns mowed, and shrubs trimmed? An HOA can enforce these rules, but if there is not one, you can be at the mercy of local code enforcement. And do you want to be next to someone who mows their lawn once a month…whether it needs it or not? Also, what’s the overall appearance of the homes? Are they well maintained?
Now, picture yourself in this neighborhood. Is there a part you like better than others? Maybe that main entrance street is to busy with traffic? Or you see how busy the amenities are or a neighborhood park and you would not want all that activity in front of your house? Here again, you would see this kind of activity by visiting the neighborhood on the weekend as well as during the week. Jogging trails, or running on the street? How close is a morning coffee if you wanted to get one? Or grab dinner?
Other things to look at … how “active” is the neighborhood? Do you see people out walking in the evenings? Or working in the yard? Street lights? Are certain streets main roads in, out or through the neighborhood? Are there a lot of “For Sale” signs? This could mean something, and we can help with a market analysis to see what may be happening..
Some of these things you can’t see in as much detail if you are looking at condominium living. We can certainly show you a building at different times. Night time, to see the city lights view from your balcony? Weekend to see how busy the pool is? Fitness center’s can be hit or miss, as people work out at all times of the day.
Tip #5: Time to Call It HOME!
We have narrowed down the neighborhood or building! Now it is time to find you that house or condo to call…HOME!
If we have already had our initial Buyer Consultation, you will have met with one of our Team Lenders and have your pre-approval in place! (Of course, cash is an option if that is your choice.) But when you meet with a lender, they will help you with loan options you qualify for as well as look at other expenses such as property taxes, mortgage insurance and HOA fees. Determining this FIRST, at the START of your home search, will help you identify neighborhoods as well. This way you know what you qualify for, and what neighborhoods or buildings fit your budget!
We like to have you pre-approved so you know your financial budget, and we don’t show you more home than you can afford, or is outside of what you want to spend!
And just as you were looking for the details of the neighborhood, now you look at the details you want in your new home!
Some Final Words
Whether you are moving across town, or across country, being an informed home buyer is the best thing you can do! Ask us questions. Ask us LOTS of questions! We are here to help you! You can find tons of information on the Internet, but we can help you with those sources. We are on the streets and in these neighborhoods and can tell you the Pros and Cons of many of them!