View of Neighborhood from above.

Neighborhood Info: How To Research And Choose The Perfect Place For Your Home Search

January 03, 2024 6-minute read

Author: Victoria Araj

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When you’re in the market to buy a home, there are so many important factors to consider. One of the most critical factors comes from a famous real estate quote: location, location, location.

Finding the right neighborhood is an essential part of shopping for a home. But what makes a neighborhood a good neighborhood? Let’s explore how to evaluate a neighborhood to ensure it’s the right one for your home search.

Neighborhood Information

When searching for a new home, you may want to factor in the following neighborhood stats:

  • Median age of neighborhood residents
  • Neighborhood diversity
  • Number of families with children in the area
  • Distance to work and amenities

Depending on what you value in a neighborhood, you’ll prioritize some factors, like a neighborhood’s walkability (or walking score), more than others. Other key aspects to evaluate can include how far you are from schools, hospitals, restaurants and other amenities.

No matter what you’re looking for in your idea of a perfect neighborhood, your real estate agent or REALTOR® should be able to provide relevant, comprehensive information about the area. And once you find the right property, your agent can also help you make a competitive home offer.

Neighborhood Location

The physical location of a neighborhood can impact your desire to live there in several ways. We’ve outlined some main factors for you to consider.

Climate

When deciding where to live, the weather will absolutely help you determine whether you’ve zeroed in on your perfect neighborhood.

Consider climate factors, such as:

  • Snow records
  • Average temperatures throughout the year
  • Sunlight hours
  • Humidity levels
  • Rainfall totals
  • Pollen count

If certain seasons or seasonal changes affect your mood, northern states, with their long, dark winters, may not be the ideal place for your new home. If you suffer from severe seasonal allergies, some locations will be worse for your sinuses than others. And if you can’t function in the heat or humidity, consider an area’s scorching temperatures before choosing a neighborhood in the southeast.

While you might not have the option to choose which region of the country you want to live in, climate can vary quite a bit from ZIP code to ZIP code, especially near bodies of water and mountain ranges. Even if you decide you must be within a 30-minute commute of your new place of employment, you might have flexibility when it comes to climate .

Accessibility And Transportation

Some areas provide better access to services and amenities. Some of the top factors that contribute to an area’s accessibility and convenience include:

  • Sidewalks
  • Bike lanes
  • Rideshare services
  • Buses
  • Subways, streetcars, trains, etc.

Simply put, consider how easy it is to get from Point A to Point B. Some websites list a neighborhood’s walking score. The lower the number, the more likely it is you’ll need a car to get around.

A neighborhood’s proximity to major roads is another important aspect to consider. While you may not want to drive 20 minutes to get to the nearest highway, you probably don’t want to live right next to a busy roadway. Traffic noise from roads may even make your home less valuable to potential buyers when you sell.

Distance To Work And Amenities

In some ways, distance to work and amenities connects to accessibility and transportation.

Most home buyers think of the time it takes to commute to work or school, but you should take other travel times into account when choosing a neighborhood. Ask yourself:

  • Is there a bodega around the corner, or do I have to drive or take public transportation to get to the supermarket?
  • How far am I from my primary care doctor or dentist?
  • How close am I to restaurants, movie theaters or sports venues?
  • How far am I from the nearest airport?

You may pay a premium to be close to everything that matters to you. And for some home buyers, the additional cost is well worth the price.

School Districts

If you have kids or plan to start a family, vet the school district to make sure it meets your approval.

Even if you don’t have kids to enroll in school, you should research the area school district. School districts affect your property taxes, and houses in good school districts typically attract home buyers when it’s time to sell.

The quality of a local school district and other neighborhood characteristics can impact a home's purchase price. To learn how much home you can afford and to make your purchase offer more attractive to a seller, get initial approval for a mortgage.

Get approved to buy a home.

Rocket Mortgage® lets you get to house hunting sooner.

Neighborhood Safety

Most people want to know whether the neighborhood they’re moving into is safe. While you should factor in neighborhood crime rates, keep in mind that crime statistics are one component of a much broader safety equation.

Crime Rates And Statistics

When assessing a neighborhood’s safety, consider violent and property crime rates. Looking at general crime data can provide insight into local crime rates, helping you make a more informed decision.

In addition to examining crime data, another useful resource for assessing public safety is the National Sex Offender Public Website. The website provides information about registered sex offenders and can be a helpful tool for parents and community members.

Other Safety Considerations

Consider factors beyond crime statistics that can contribute to your sense of safety in a neighborhood. Here are some questions you can ask yourself while assessing safety:

  • How close will I be to my nearest neighbor? Is the home in an isolated area?
  • Is the neighborhood generally occupied and cared for, or does the neighborhood include a number of abandoned homes?
  • How far am I from fire stations, police stations, clinics or hospitals?
  • Is there a neighborhood association?

If, like many home buyers, safety is a huge priority for you, research neighborhoods in America’s safest cities.

Future Development Of The Neighborhood

The current state of any neighborhood is an obvious consideration, but you should also investigate the possibility of future development. Why? A well-known business principle proposes a greater return on investment if you can get in on the ground floor of the next big thing – and the same principle applies to neighborhoods.

New Construction

Ask about new construction, which can include:

  • Homes
  • Parks
  • Grocery stores
  • Businesses
  • Schools
  • Public transportation

New construction in an area may indicate desirability or forecast a spike in real estate values.

But development can also have downsides. You may be turned off by the noise, disruption or added traffic often associated with major neighborhood development.

Property Values And Trends

It’s important to make an objective assessment of the investment value of a potential home. Looking for new construction is a good start, but for deeper insight, consider how housing prices have changed in the area. Ask yourself these questions:

  • Have prices been rising or falling?
  • Are price changes steady or erratic?
  • Did the trend change at a certain point in time?

Reviewing local housing market data can help you decide whether a home is a good investment. Researching local data is important because local trends don’t always follow what’s trending nationally.

Neighborhood Culture

How you feel about a neighborhood will significantly impact your day-to-day life. Take a walk in the prospective neighborhood, visit local businesses, drive by at different times of day and talk to your potential neighbors. These in-person experiences can provide more insight into the numbers and stats.

Here are some questions to answer about the characteristics of a neighborhood:

  • Do I feel comfortable walking around?
  • Are people friendly or unfriendly?
  • Are others out walking and are children playing outside?
  • Do the streets and sidewalks look well maintained?
  • Do multiple residents share common complaints?
  • Does the neighborhood offer any exciting amenities or have a strong sense of local community?

Considering how a neighborhood makes you feel will help you hone in on the right community for your new life in your new home.

The Bottom Line: The Right Neighborhood Is Waiting For You

Some neighborhood features will mean more to you than others.

If you have a family, you may focus more on school districts than your proximity to a wide variety of restaurants. Make a list of the neighborhood characteristics that matter most to you before you start house hunting.

Prepare for the next step in buying a home and get initial approval from Rocket Mortgage today.

Get approved to buy a home.

Rocket Mortgage® lets you get to house hunting sooner.

Victoria Araj

Victoria Araj is a Section Editor for Rocket Mortgage and held roles in mortgage banking, public relations and more in her 15+ years with the company. She holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism with an emphasis in political science from Michigan State University, and a master’s degree in public administration from the University of Michigan.