The following post was contributed by reader, Emma Lear.

When searching for a new home, buyers often spend months sifting through real estate listings to find the perfect fit. But most people focus primarily on the house rather than the neighbourhood. This is a common mistake that can easily turn a beautiful home into a nightmare.

A wonderful home is only one part of the equation that leads to a satisfying lifestyle. There are a number of other important considerations including schools, amenities, and neighbours among other factors. Regardless of whether this is a short-term move or not, if you are in the wrong neighbourhood, a short stay can feel like an eternity.

Never Make Assumptions

It is common for people to select neighbourhoods that enjoy great schools, low crime rates, and affordable taxes based on what others have said. But one should never make a decision to purchase in one of these neighbourhoods unless they have verified these facts personally. At the end of the day, it must be the perfect fit for you and what may be acceptable to others may not be satisfactory to your needs. This is especially important when considering the length of a daily commute.

Neighbours Shape Your Lifestyle

Most people would never hire a contractor or a babysitter without seeking references. So why would you purchase a home without being vigilant about your neighbours? The people that live next door will significantly influence your quality of life every day for better or for worse. It’s important to make every attempt to engage them in conversation to learn more about the area rather than just doing a casual walk of the neighbourhood. It could help to increase your chances of a good night’s sleep.

Amenities and Culture Enhance Quality of Life

Believe it or not, even neighbourhoods can have their own sub-culture that is different to what one knows of a city’s culture. While the neighbourhood may look great, is it near shopping, restaurants, entertainment, or even schools? These can all impact your life in terms of time, convenience, and the cost of transportation. Make sure your neighbourhood has the right amenities to suit your lifestyle and be sure to hit the streets rather than spending time driving in the car.

The Impact of Noise and Traffic

The look and feel of neighbourhoods can easily change with the seasons. While your search for a home may not span months, it is important to try and understand these changes at all times of day so that you know if you can live with them before committing to purchase. Traffic patterns can change throughout the day and that can increase noise and the danger for children. There could be a house that likes to host noisy parties on weekends or a church that takes up all of the parking on Sunday mornings.

The Truth about Schools

Although you may not have children, schools are still important factors when purchasing a home for a couple of reasons. Firstly, you may have children in the future which may necessitate the need to live nearby a school. But most importantly, homes near good quality schools always enjoy consistent demand translating into higher resale prices.

Don’t Turn a Blind Eye to Crime

Crime is one of the most important factors in choosing a neighbourhood. Not only does it severely impact housing prices, but it also has a direct effect on your property, family, and overall quality of life. A good portion of your time should be dedicated to researching crime in a potential neighbourhood. There are a number of ways to conduct research including talking to the local police department, searching for information on the internet, and walking around the neighbourhood looking for signs of criminal activity. Graffiti, vandalism, bars on windows, and the condition of houses can say a lot about the neighbourhood.

Look out for abandoned buildings and observe how the locals interact with you. It is especially important to profile the individuals living in the area especially if you have a young family. The identity of your neighbour can be as important to your property’s value as the house itself. Neighbours with drug or alcohol addictions can easily stain the quality of life in your neighbourhood. While the side effects of abuse may vary, most of the symptoms are similar and all of these could put you, your family, and your property at risk especially when theft, violence, or risky behaviour is concerned. In Canada, the National Sex Offender Database can also provide valuable information to help identify whether there are safety concerns in your prospective neighbourhood.

Future Development in the Neighbourhood

Homes are not just places to live in. They are also investments. There are a number of factors that can increase or decrease the future value of properties. Future development in the area could lead to an increase in property value as the neighbourhood becomes more desirable but it could also increase traffic as well. Property taxes can also increase your cost of living so you should always research the trends in advance to avoid unexpected surprises. Great access to public transportation also impacts a property’s value as it does your quality of life in terms of convenience and accessibility.

Overall, there is no single definition of a good neighbourhood that will match the needs of all home buyers. Young couples, families, or bachelors will all have different definitions on what is the perfect neighbourhood for them. However, what is important to remember is that choosing a neighbourhood is much more than simply finding the perfect house. By taking time to research basic considerations that are common to all such as crime rate, future development, neighbours, noise, and traffic, you can increase your chances of finding the right house in the right neighbourhood to create the perfect home.

Additional References:

Royal Canadian Mounted Police: National Sex Offender Registry,” accessed May 2014.
Money Sense: Where to Buy Now,” accessed May 2014.
HomeZilla: The Canadian Homebuyer’s Neighbourhood Research Tool,” accessed May 2014.
Government of Alberta: Home Buying Programs & Services,” accessed May 2014.
Canada Housing and Mortgage Corporation: Settling in Canada,” accessed May 2014.
Neighbours from Hell: Researching the Enemy Next Door,” accessed May 2014.
BMO: How to Find the Right Home,” accessed May 2014.
CMHC: Affordable Housing Programs,” accessed May 2014.
Side effects and symptoms,” accessed May 2014.
Capital Region Housing Corporation: The Home Program,” accessed May 2014.
Canada Housing and Mortgage Corporation: Which Home is Right for You,” accessed May 2014.

Posted by Sarah MacDonald on

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