Choosing a New Neighborhood

Finding a new place to live is exciting and overwhelming at the same time. People are drawn to neighborhoods for a variety of reasons, but there are a few simple rules to follow if finding the right home is a priority and it is necessary to get it right to maintain a high quality of life.

If a gentler pace is required, a quiet neighborhood will be necessary. If you crave excitement and prefer to be in an area which is lively, full of restaurants and shopping, it is best to look for a home within walking area of a city center for taking advantage of this type of neighborhood.

How should a neighborhood be judged? Think of it this way: would you want to walk around the block, or up the hill in your new neighborhood at midnight? Because you may need to walk in your new neighborhood during these times, such as: in an emergency (the car stalls a block from home or you get a flat tire within eye sight of your own garage), or the storm knocks out the lights (you have to go to a neighbor’s home who has a generator for a hot shower), your dog gets loose from the yard at night (and you have to go looking around behind buildings and homes for the dog that went missing), or you are just returning home from a new resident block party (as you walk home during seasonal holidays from a new neighbor’s home up the street). It is important to ask yourself again, in reference to that new home, condo, duplex, apartment or condex: is this the place you will feel comfortable walking around in at midnight on any given night during the year? If the answer is yes, you may have found a great new neighborhood. If the answer is no, keep looking because you will regret being in the wrong place at the wrong time (even if that place is outside of your door during the wee hours of the morning – a place which you have every right to be in, truth be told).

It may be easier to work backwards and make a list of everything that is not wanted in a neighborhood. The new neighborhood is made up of more than just other homes, it includes land and people too! In terms of the land, it is necessary to consider the natural distribution of resources on the land (this means understand where the water runs off in a flood, and whether your home is at the bottom of a hill and will tend to flood faster as a result). The people already living in the area should also be considered when looking for a new neighborhood.

First let’s start with the other homes. You don’t want to live in the best and most expensive home on the street or the worst place in a neighborhood. If your home is the best or the worst home in any category, it may be a target for undesirable people who may assume it will be vulnerable to break-ins, vandalism or general nuisance traffic and trespassing. This includes people who may solicit door to door to sell scam magazines or painting services. The best option when looking for a new neighborhood is to look around neighborhoods carefully without being judgmental, and to look at how the neighbors around the new location keep up their property. That house across the street with the peeling paint and loose side boards today will be a real eyesore in a few years. Also check out the backyards as you drive around the street and see what is kept in those areas. If there is a yard housing old appliances and used cars, there may be unwanted traffic for parts on the main street as a result. If you find tall grass, unkempt dog kennels, rusty toys and bikes or other neglected or inappropriate items, keep driving since this is not the neighborhood for you. Also notice if there are loose dogs which could be an issue if you plan to jog daily in the area. Ask around for any natural wildlife, such as wild coyotes, deer, rodents, foxes (and for some New England states: bear, moose, turkeys and porcupines).

Next consider the other people living in the area. If the neighbors are people interested in mingling and getting to know newcomers, this may be a great neighborhood for you. Does the neighborhood have an informal or formal block watch program? Do they have block parties regularly or share a communal garden or walking trail? These are all appropriate questions to ask as you walk the beat to see if you might be a good fit in the area.

Find out if the area you plan to live in has easy access to highways and main roads, is planning to develop in the next few years by adding homes or duplexes, is near a school or is planning to do major renovations for sewers or adding green space.

Once you are armed with this wealth of information, you can make the most informed decision on which neighborhood you choose to live in, and be happy there for many years to come.

 Jeff writes about insurance related topics for the Consumer Media Newtwork’s renter’s insurance blog.