Imagine this: You’re finally a homeowner. You found the perfect abode that fits you and/or your family’s needs—spacious bedrooms, a big kitchen with new stainless steel appliances, hard wood floors, a white picket fence, and all that. But as soon as night falls, the neighborhood starts to look a little different. You notice crowds of people gathering on the corner, people yelling out of their windows, your car alarm keeps going off, and on top of that, every weekend your street becomes host to the eight-hour block party.
You may have the right house but it’s in the wrong neighborhood.
The reality is, it’s not the real estate agent’s job to give you the scoop on the neighborhood. Most won’t alert you to the negatives because their goal is to sell you a home and get a commission.
“Go when they least expect you,” advises attorney Enealia Nau of NauCorp. Properties, Inc. “November through March are popular months that brokers like to show homes because most people are inside during the colder months.”
To get a real assessment of the neighborhood, survey it on a warm evening or the weekend. Choosing the wrong neighborhood can depreciate the value of your home, but more importantly, you want to protect you and/or your family from being the victim of a crime.
Nau provided some useful house hunting tips at this week’s homebuyer’s class sponsored by the Bedford Central Community Development Corp.
Find out if the neighborhood is safe. Ask the police department for neighborhood crime statistics. Consider not only the number of crimes but also the type—burglaries, armed robberies—and whether the trend is increasing or decreasing crime. Also, is most of the criminal activity centered in only one part of the neighborhood, such as near a retail area?
Determine if the neighborhood is economically stable. Check with your local city economic development office to see if income and property values in the neighborhood are stable or rising. What is the percentage of homes to apartments? Apartments don’t necessarily diminish value, but they do mean a more transient population. Do you see vacant businesses or homes that have been for sale for months? That may not be a good sign.
Make a list of the activities—movies, health club, church—you engage in regularly and the stores you visit frequently. See how far you would have to travel to participate in your regular pastimes and activities for each neighborhood you’re considering moving to.