Getting to Know a New Neighborhood

Blog posted On January 17, 2019

When you are buying a new home, you may get so excited about the experience you forget about the neighborhood.  Although it may seem obvious to some, real estate professionals warn new home buyers, “you can change the house, but you can’t change the location.”  If you are shopping for a new home in 2019, don’t forget to look around the neighborhood before getting emotionally invested in a property.  Here are six red flags contributor Jaime Wiebe advises prospective home buyers to watch for. 

  1. Too Many Homes for Sale – in most cases, too many “for sale” signs can be a problem. While you may initially think you have your pick of the available homes, it shows current residents are moving out for some reason.  If you choose to sell down the road, you may also face excessive competition and may be stuck.   This also applies to newly construction communities and spec homes.  Ask yourself, “how long have these homes been on the market and why haven’t they sold?” 
  2. School Enrollment has Declined – in growing communities, public school enrollment typically increases each year. If class sizes are shrinking, this could be a red flag.  Either the school district is performing poorly, and parents are choosing to send their kids to private or charter schools or families are moving away.  Even if you do not have school-age children, the health of the local schools tends to reflect the health of the overall neighborhood. 
  3. Industrial Zoning – consider the resources you will want in close proximity to your home. How far is the grocery store?  How far do you have to go to shop or go out to eat?  What is the ratio of gas stations to boutiques?  If the zoning leads industrial, you may find yourself commuting longer just for errands and entertainment. 
  4. Empty Storefronts – compare the ratio of occupied retail spaces to those that are front. Too many empty storefronts may be a sign that spending has slowed in the community and stores that were once profitable have failed.
  5. Parking Availability – don’t just visit your prospective neighborhood during the day, check it out on nights and weekends, when you’ll likely be looking for parking. You may have a one-car garage, but what if you are a two-car household?  Find out if you need parking permits ahead of time and factor that cost into your other housing expenses. 
  6. Surrounding Homes are Unkempt – survey the neighbor’s yards and home exteriors. Are they well-maintained?  Are they overgrown?  Any signs of pooling water or flickering porchlights?  Neighboring homes were likely built around the same time as the home you are looking to buy.  Any evident structural problems on the surrounding homes could mean trouble ahead for you and your new home. 

In addition to your own independent research, leverage local real estate resources and find out more about a prospective neighborhood.  Work with a Realtor and loan officer who has worked in the area before.  Get some insight before you buy and remember you can change the house, but you can’t change the location!