When buying a new home, the neighborhood is every bit as important as the house itself. So, you need to check it out. Thoroughly. Yes, you look at the schools and you figure out how close the nearest Target is and you also (hopefully) research crime reports and take a look at sex offender maps of the areas you are considering.
But is that enough?
When it comes to researching your neighborhood, what you don’t know can hurt you. What if you bought a house in this Arlington, TX neighborhood in the summer, unaware that in the winter, it’s overrun with migratory egrets. If you’re thinking it might be cool to have visitors for a few months, consider this: One homeowner in the area estimated that the egrets “cost her $10,000 on the constant cleanup of their droppings and a heavy pruning of her trees once they flew away last fall,” said NBC DFW. And, It is against the law to disturb them.
Google is your friend if you’re looking to learn more about potential neighborhoods. But it turns out the best tools for figuring out what’s going on are the people who may soon become your neighbors. After all, how else would you know that the woman two doors down runs a screaming yoga class out of her garage three nights a week. That the guy across the street likes to do his mowing at the crack of dawn every Saturday morning (despite the fact that he’s been warned multiple times). Or that you might be moving next to someone who is “blatantly hostile,” said The Balance.
The site detailed a story in which buyers changed courses on a home they loved when they discovered that their potential neighbors disputed the property boundaries and planted rose bushes on what was probably not their land. It gets worse. They also said, “We smoke like chimneys and plan to sit out on our front porch every night smoking,” with a smirk, “And there’s nothing you can do about it.”
Not only will meeting the neighbors “give you a good idea of whether you will be compatible, but neighbors will disclose material facts that a seller might forget to mention,” they said. “Sellers can be forgetful about these things and not purposely trying to fail to disclose.”
Meeting and talking with neighbors could give you a more detailed understanding of the neighborhood, including things that might impact your decision to buy, like:
It may be full of renters
No offense to renters, but it could be that a preponderance of them in your neighborhood affects your home values. “While it’s hard to do an analysis down to every property, we found that ZIP codes with a higher-than-average concentration of renters have lower property values compared to the county they are located in – by 14%,” said Realtor.com.
Your real estate agent should be able to give you an understanding of the ratio of owner–occupied homes to rentals in the neighborhood you are considering.
There could be plans you don’t know about
Maybe there’s a new multi-family community coming that could add traffic to the neighborhood streets and also impact the local schools. Or a new retail project with a loud preschool—or a loud bar. Or even transitional housing for formerly homeless individuals that would, at the very least, be a political football in the neighborhood.
In addition to talking to neighbors, there are a few other ways you can combat surprises in the neighborhood you’re thinking of moving to:
Visit multiple times – during the day, night, and on weekends. If you only saw the house on a Saturday afternoon, you may not know that commuters love to cut through the neighborhood twice a day, Monday – Friday. “Your new neighbor’s kid might get his drum kit out only during evenings or at weekends,” said The Mortgage Reports. “And there might have been a reason the student house on the other side was so quiet on the morning of the open house: Its residents were too hungover to get up after one of their frequent all-night parties.”
Check out Nextdoor
Nextdoor is a treasure trove of information and can give you a good feel for what it would be like to live there. But, it could be tricky to get in because Nextdoor is hyper local and reserved for residents of a particular neighborhood. Try following Nextdoor’s own recommendations for joining the site in “neighborhoods outside of your primary residence,” which involves using a separate email address – but beware that you may not be able to register an address that is already being used on the site. If that doesn’t work, you may be able to ask your real estate agent for help, or perhaps a potential new neighbor can be of assistance.