Your home's value will be influenced by the value of the properties surrounding it. Common wisdom suggests that you should not purchase the most expensive home in the neighborhood. There are numerous factors to consider when choosing a neighborhood; some may be more important to you than others. Among them are:
• Schools: The quality of the schools in the area is of extreme importance, especially if you have children. Even if you don't, the reputation of the school system may be an important factor if you later decide to sell your home.
• Crime levels: Is the crime rate increasing or decreasing? Find out the frequency of break-ins and other crimes against homeowners in the area. Public records at the town hall and newspaper archives at the local library may be good sources of information.
• Utilities: What's the average cost of utilities in the area? How does the tap water taste, and is it fluoridated? How promptly does the phone company respond to maintenance calls? Is cable television available?
• Hospitals: Find out how close the nearest hospitals are. Inquire about the reputations of emergency and other services, and determine if they accept your medical insurance.
• Property taxes: What is the residential property tax rate, and how often does it increase? How is the property appraised?
• Municipal services: Determine what services (e.g., garbage removal, recycling, or water and sewage) might be provided by the community, and what services (if any) you'll have to pay a private contractor to provide.
• Accessibility: If you choose a suburban location, will you have a lengthy commute to work? Test your commute to work in off-peak hours and during prime drive time.
• Business considerations: If you operate a business from your home, you'll need to know whether this is permitted in the neighborhood you are considering. Will on-street and/or off-street parking be available?
• Recreation: Will you be near golf courses, public gyms, tennis courts, swimming pools, or parks? Will you need to pay to use these facilities?
• Transportation: Convenient access to commuter rail lines, buses, subways, and highways is generally advantageous, although noise, traffic, and pollution can be concerns if these facilities are too close to your home.
• Traffic: While an increase in traffic generally signals growth in the area, excessive traffic can cause unhealthy levels of noise and air pollution. Get a clear impression of the traffic situation both during the week and on the weekends.
• Shopping: Are you close to grocery and convenience stores, pharmacies, gas stations, dry cleaners, and banks? Are you so close that traffic will be a problem?
• Neighbors: Can you determine if your neighbors might share your interests? Look for ski racks or bike racks on their cars, or barbecue grills in back yards. If you have children, are there signs of other children of similar ages in the neighborhood?
• Terrain: Find out if flooding has been a problem in the recent past, or if the area is part of an identifiable flood plain.
• Future improvements: Check with the zoning department at the local town hall to see if any zoning changes, airport expansions, road improvements, etc. may impact the area you're considering.
Although not all the above may apply to your current needs, we know by experience that the neighborhood is just as important as the home.