Buying a new home is a big commitment that comes with many concerns and hoops to jump through. With everything going on, it’s easy to overlook one of the most important parts of the process. In addition to making sure you get the right number of bedrooms and baths, you need to find out if your new neighborhood is one you can live in for years to come.
The best way to get to know your potential new neighborhood isn’t to talk to the realtor – it’s to go straight to the neighbors. Before signing on the dotted line, take time to walk through the neighborhood, introduce yourself to current residents, and find out more about the place you’re planning to put down roots. To make sure your neighborhood canvas is as useful as possible, keep these four questions in mind as you get to know your new neighbors.
1. What do you know about the house?
Even in the most private neighborhoods, people know what’s going on. If there was a flood in your basement, or another damaging event, the neighbors are likely to know. This is the best way to discover tidbits the seller may have “forgotten” to tell you. They can also let you know if there are any common concerns all homeowners in the neighborhood share, like root problems or a high water table.
Learning about the life of the house from the people who’ve watched it over the years is invaluable. They might even share an extra nugget of information that makes the house more appealing, like how well the house held up during a recent storm or that the guy next door plows every driveway on the street after a snowstorm.
2. How safe is the neighborhood?
Sure you can look up online safety resources, like crime statistics from the local police department, but that won’t always tell you about problems with loitering, loud parties, or dogs running the streets. The neighbors can give you a real picture of what goes on in the neighborhood and what, if anything, you need to watch out for.
Inquire about a neighborhood watch program and find out how active it is. Do they have regular meetings? Is there a solid partnership with local law enforcement? If not, would the neighbors be open to starting a neighborhood watch? Finding out how responsible residents are for their own safety – and that of their neighbors – is telling.
3. Do most homes have security systems?
It’s smart to consider adding a security system to your home, but getting a sense of how common they are in your neighborhood can help you make a final decision. If you see a lot of security signs in yards, ask if they are “prop” signs, used in an effort to scare off burglars without investing in a system.
If a lot of the signs aren’t representing a real security system, it might be even more of a reason for you to make sure your new home has one. If word gets out that your neighborhood isn’t really as protected as it seems, you don’t want to be a victim.
4. How kid-friendly is the street?
When you’re moving your family to a new neighborhood, you want to make sure your new home and area are a good fit for all family members. Find out about schools, nearby parks, after-school programs, and if the kids in the neighborhood tend to get along.
Ask if there’s a favorite babysitter or piano teacher in the area. If there are a lot of teenagers in the neighborhood, find out if there are regular spots where they hang out and if they stay out of trouble. Choosing a home in a neighborhood where your kids will be able to grow and thrive is crucial.
Getting out and talking to the neighbors is an important step before buying a home, but it can do more for you than dig up the dirt on your future home. When you meet the neighbors you’ll get a sense of how friendly the community is, how well they look out for each other, and whether a new best friend might be waiting right across the street.
Written by Rebecca Edwards
Rebecca has honed her safety and security skills as both a single mom and a college director. Being responsible for the well-being of others helped her learn how to minimize risk and create safe environments. Learn more