Are you looking for a great house or a great neighborhood?
Luckily, when it comes to buying a home, not everyone is looking for the same thing. Someone who is looking for acreage, is probably less likely to be concerned about finding a very involved neighborhood association. Another buyer who is looking to find a 'Mayberry' type setting, replete with Memorial Day Parades and Halloween Parties for the tots, is probably not as focused on lot privacy.
When you put your wish list together, most of us focus on the number of bedrooms and the number of baths. Next on the list is usually the style of house (detached, townhouse or condo) and then the lists begin to take on a more personal element. Age of house, recent remodels, fireplaces, pool, etc. are all things that are important to some buyers and not to others.
As you begin your search, however, you may want to think about what kind of community, if any, you are seeking.
I have talked to many people who say that their thought process, and needs, were different when they originally bought their house than it is today. As you decide where you want to live, try to think a little bit further down the line. If you have little children, try to picture what they will need 5, or even 10, years down the road. Will you still be here when they are old enough to play outside unattended? If you are single or a couple, do you want to pay a premium for the tot lot down the street? Maybe not, but you might, if it means that the people in the neighborhood look out for one another--or you might feel like it is just throwing your money away to support amenities that you won't use.
Here are some ideas of the type of questions you might ask to help you determine what kind of neighborhood it is:
- Do you have a neighborhood watch--either part of a formal program or informally?
- Is there a neighborhood association? Who is on the board? Do they organize neighborhood events?
- What is the parking situation when people have parties?
- Is there a community pool or other place where neighbors gather?
- Are there any annual events for the neighborhood?
- Are there any clubs that are organized within the neighborhood (Dinner Clubs, book clubs, etc.)?
- Do informal gathering ever take place, or do most people keep to themselves?
Obviously, this is not intended to be an all inclusive list, but it might give you some ideas about the kind of questions that you would like to ask. The objective here is to figure out what is important to you.
Saturday night one of our neighbors had a 'Harvest Moon Soiree.' It was a great time to catch up with the neighbors and it seems well on the way to becoming an annual tradition. A couple of weeks back another neighbor did back-to-school movie night outside in their cul-de-sac. If these kind of events appeal to you, it is important to spend some time walking around the neighborhoods that you are considering and talking to the neighbors. Ask about annual parties, neighborhood cook-outs and other annual events. It might mean going at different times of the day, or maybe on the weekend, but the information you find out will be extremely helpful to you in determining what kind of neighborhood it is.
It all goes back to the old saying, 'location, location, location.' You can always modify a floor plan or improve a kitchen, but whether you are looking for a close-knit neighborhood or something that provides you a little bit more autonomy, you would be well advised to do your research ahead of time--a neighborhood is not as easy to change as a paint color!
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