For many people, choosing a neighborhood is the most difficult part of the decision to buy a home. When you tackle that "location, location, location" question, it's smart to prioritize various neighborhood features, then start looking for homes in areas that match most of your criteria. Here are some things to consider:
Transportation Realities and Options
Check the length of your commute to work from your neighborhoods of choice. Do streets get clogged at rush hour? Is mass transit within walking distance? In one consumer study, 79 percent of respondents said that a top priority in deciding where to live is having a commute time under 45 minutes. Seventy-five percent also wanted easy access to highways. Visit the neighborhood at different times of day and night and talk to as many local residents as possible.
Places of Interest Nearby
Research nearby schools, restaurants, places of worship, parks, etc. Seventy-two percent of survey respondents ranked sidewalks and places to walk as a top priority when considering where to live. Try going to HomePages.com -- where you can view homes for sale and the nearest amenities on an interactive map.
Costs in Addition to the Mortgage
In addition to the costs of mortgage, insurance and home maintenance, consider local property taxes and homeowner association fees, if applicable.
What's the Future of the Neighborhood?
Try to imagine what the neighborhood will look like in 10 years. Will you still want to live there, or do you expect to move before then? Will it be desirable to future buyers?
Once you've prioritized all your neighborhood amenities and features, you'll find it's much easier to focus your home search. Remember, the neighborhood is usually as important to the value of a home as what's under its roof.