How to Pick a New Neighborhood

Where we live says a lot about us. We all like to see a little of ourselves in the place we call home! Neighborhoods around the country (and even the world) have their own personalities, perks, and charm.  So whether you’re packing for a cross-country move or just seeking out a new hood in your own city, here are a few things to consider to find the right place for you.

Start with self-reflection.

Source: Amanda Holstein

Before you start poking around a new neighborhood, take the time to reflect on how you want to feel in a new home and community. Sometimes fun neighborhood events (like a parade of homes) can easily dazzle and sweep you up into a fantasy of living in a particular place. But remember, these homes may not reflect the majority of living options in a neighborhood or may not meet you and your family’s priorities.

Think about what you believe is lacking in your current community. Is it walking distance to fun restaurants, bars, or cultural activities? Or perhaps you need to tighten up your commute? A few hours thinking about what you’re looking for saves a bunch of time in the long run!

Keep the four tradeoffs in mind.

Source: With Love From Kat

In many neighborhoods, you generally trade four things—size, newness, location, and price—for other lower wish list items. To get an extra guest room, you might need to be on the outskirts of the trendiest neighborhood or be willing to put a little time and money into a remodel. So it’s critical to know which of these is most important to you or where you have a little bit of wiggle room.

Have a list that breaks down what is a non-negotiable, and also on things where you can be flexible. The more specific and personal these details are the more confident you can be in your neighborhood hunt. Be very specific about the lifestyle elements that are important to you as this will help guide your neighborhood choices.

Know what you can afford.

Source: Freckles and Blush

This is one of the most important aspects to work through as you tailor your neighborhood search. While the 30 percent of your income rule has been a bit debunked, it can still be a reasonable starting point to identify a rent expense comfortable to you and to know what works with your budget.

It’s definitely possible to save money living in a new city, but also keep in mind potentially unexpected costs. For example, if you opt for a more affordable place further away from work you could actually end up spending more in transportation costs. Other fees like homeowner’s associations or city taxes can also add up so be sure to factor those in while you’re exploring.

Take advantage of technology.

We’re so lucky to live in an awesome age of information at our fingertips! The number of apps, sites, and blogs dedicated to the neighborhood hunt makes it easier than ever to navigate options. Apps like Dwellr and HomeFacts gives you various statistics about safety, school choices, and even natural disaster risks. The classic site WalkScore gives you details on how walkable and bike friendly your new neighborhood will be. (Once you’re settled, try the app NextDoor—it’s a private social network for your neighborhood that gives you the scoop on what’s happening in your new area!)

Make due diligence your job.

Source: West Village Life

It can be tempting to trust a real estate agent or your favorite city blog to be your single source of information on a new neighborhood. But don’t completely outsource this important work! Here are a few ways to make sure you’re getting different perspectives.

  • Chat up the locals. Bartenders, doormen, and the gals who run your favorite shop in the neighborhood are great sources of information. How long have they been in town? What brought them here? Are their rents skyrocketing or is the neighborhood developing at a steady pace? Getting their take on where they see the neighborhood headed gives you a totally different, but equally important, view than that of a real estate professional.
  • Check for an excess of foreclosures or large stretches of properties for rent. You’ll get a sense of whether this is because the neighborhood is on its way to greater development or starting to slow, but these indicators help you know if you’re potentially in for a fixer upper or on the front end of a period of gentrification. (You might score more affordable rent!)
  • Review government information. Research local crime statistics, school information, parks and recreation, and neighborhood associations. It can be pretty surprising to see how crime information varies quickly in dense urban areas.
  • Visit the neighborhood at different times. Be sure you’ve seen it at its best and worst! Did you fall in love with this area because you visit for a lively Sunday brunch? Be sure to also check it out at night, in the very early in the morning, and on different days of the week. Are streets well lit? Are there a lot of people out and about?
  • Rent a room. If it works for your timing and budget, consider getting an Airbnb or staying with a friend in the area for a few days. Map out how you’d go about routine things like getting groceries and heading to work. Trying out a neighborhood is the closest you’ll get to living there so it can be a great last check of the area before you take the plunge!

What do you prioritize when choosing a new neighborhood? How does your neighborhood reflect your personality?

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