When you buy a house, you also invest in the neighborhood that surrounds it. The identity of a neighborhood may be as important to property values as the individual properties themselves. In a planned community, strictly controlled architecture governs a carefully crafted identity block after block. In a rural town, tree-lined streets and an old-fashioned town square preserve a disappearing way of life. In a large city, an older neighborhood's ethnic history has shaped its character and often drives its rejuvenation. It's important to know where a neighborhood has been-and where it's going-before you decide to buy.
1. Start with Statistics
It's now possible to get valuable neighborhood statistics online. Crime statistics, school scores and demographic information are all readily available. Want to feel right at home? Let MSN House & Home show you neighborhoods that are most like your current one. Or you can set your own criteria and search according to your preferences, and find the right neighborhood for you. This means that you don't have to depend on anecdotal information to learn about crime or the quality of the schools.
2. Check with City Hall
You can get any kind of town planning document from your town or county's zoning and/or planning authorities. If you want to be sure that the rural hideaway you just bought stays rural, check with these officials. They start planning large projects like major road construction years from the actual start date.
|WARNING: Before you buy
If you can't investigate a neighborhood before you make an offer, include an inspection contingency in your purchase contract that covers both neighborhood and house. It may state that the offer is dependent upon the buyer's satisfactory inspection of both the property and neighborhood. You can write more specific contingencies into the contract, too. For example, your offer may be contingent upon confirmation that a restaurant cannot be built next door.
3. Research the Resale Potential
4. Get to Know the Community
The quality of the neighborhood will play a big role in your home's resale value-whether you live in the least or most expensive house on the block. Check out the MSN House & Home neighborhood finder for job growth and home appreciation numbers in the area you're interested in. With this tool, you can also find and compare any two neighborhoods against the regional average. Get a list of homes for sale in the neighborhood from your agent to determine how many days they've been on the market. If properties haven't been selling quickly, find out whether the market is slow or if there are neighborhood issues that may make resale difficult.
It may sound like a clich, but nobody knows a neighborhood like the people who live and work there every day. Visit a neighborhood on your own at different times of day and night. Talk to neighbors. Visit nearby schools and local businesses. Subscribe to the local paper. Small local papers can be chock-full of information that gives you a feel for the neighborhood or community. If you depend on public transportation, find out how accessible it is in this area. Drive to and from the house from several different directions, so you see both the scenic and not-so-scenic routes.