In the National Association of Realtors’ 2010 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers, 64 % of buyers ranked quality of neighborhood as the most important consideration when selecting a place to live. While it’s just not possible to know everything there is to know about a neighborhood before you buy a home move in, a thorough investigation will help ensure you are moving into the right environment.
Be sure your research includes these important criteria:
The first census required by the U.S. Constitution was completed in 1790, and U.S. Census Bureau workers have been counting the population, now more than 322 million people, every 10 years ever since. It’s all easily accessible, and there’s a great depth of detail. The 2010 Census breaks down age, race, population density, and even average commute times to work by neighborhood. The bureau’s maps also offer a graphic overview of select demographics.
Most maps show only a two-dimensional rendering. Topographical maps, which add the third dimension of elevation, show the surface and physical features of a given neighborhood. Besides highlighting hills and valleys, topography is important when it comes to weather events—just ask anyone in a flood plain.
A website that provides visitors with free up-to-the-minute crime maps and crime reports for specific areas is crimereports.com. The site offers a free mobile download and, if you choose, will send free crime alerts on a regular basis.
Also, make time to talk to the community resource officer for the area. Your locale may have a different title for this position, but it’s essentially the liaison between the police and neighborhoods. Your community officer can provide information about property and violent crime trends for an area and may even be able to provide crime report printouts. For small communities, you may need to check directly with the police department.
National Sex Offender Database
It’s an uncomfortable subject but information you probably want. The local police will be able to provide information about registered sex offenders living nearby. You should also check out FamilyWatchdog.us, a free database that allows you to search by street name or city. The site provides information—often including a photograph—about offenders living in the neighborhood.
Noise and traffic
Plan to visit the neighborhood at all times of the day and night. If your home search extends months, make note of different noise and traffic patterns during different seasons. Investigate traffic patterns during rush hour. Are some streets more dangerous because of this traffic flow or cars parked on the street? What’s the neighborhood like at midnight on a Saturday? Is there a church nearby that creates Sunday morning street parking issues? Are you so close to the airport that you hear the roar of planes?
Talk to multiple area residents. Does the nearby park host festivals that might create parking, litter, or noise issues? Inquire when they believe their neighborhood is the most awake and alive and, if at all possible, make a visit at that time.
If you don’t have children, should neighborhood schools matter? Yes, for two main reasons: You may have children in the future, and good schools ensure consistent demand for properties and higher resale prices. Websites like GreatSchools.org allow you to search schools by ZIP code, city, district or school name. These sites provide information about test scores, student-to-teacher ratios, student demographics, and more. Because private schools aren’t required to release test scores, sites provide fewer statistics about them. Ask neighbors for their thoughts on area schools and conduct internet searches for articles and reviews about them.
Declining property tax rolls have forced many towns to cut back on public services. How comfortable are you with the level of services available in this neighborhood? When you drive through a potential neighborhood, do you see signs that the area is having financial trouble? Are streets clean and well maintained? Are parks clean, with working, well-maintained equipment? Are there sidewalks with up-to-date code accessibility ramps? Are there bike lanes? Is public transportation available nearby; and if so, how close to the home? Where are the nearest police and fire stations? Is there a local library?
Type any address into NeighborhoodScout.com and it provides lots of data: median home price, crime rates, ease of commute—in one easy-to-digest snapshot. And beyond that, the site can tell you what makes a neighborhood unique. For instance, you may learn that a certain area has a high percentage of brownstones, or homeowners who don’t own cars.
Golden State Mortgage Can Help
An outdated room can always be remodeled, but neighborhoods are more difficult to change. Do your research so you end up buying a home in a location that’s what you and your family are looking for and want to be a part of.
At Golden State Mortgage, we are a California based mortgage company, and specialize in FHA home loans for first time home buyers. FHA loans are a great option for first time home buyers and if this is your first home purchase then a California FHA home loans are probably your best option due to the low down payment and easier credit standards. Your down payment can be as low as 3.5% of the purchase price, and closing costs and fees can be covered by the seller. Call Golden State Mortgage today at 1-888-502-2136 or fill out the quick contact form to speak with a California FHA loan consultant and get a free good faith estimate.