So much emphasis on home buying is placed on the home itself, from the suitability of the structure to the edge of the yard. Within the borders of the property line, homeowners can create their own little kingdom to call home. Yet properties are not islands, they are not isolated and there are no “good fences” powerful enough to block out the surrounding world.
Finding the right fit isn’t just about functionality, it’s the human element that ultimately determines how well a place suits people. Neighborhoods matter. A lot. And the true character of a neighborhood rests upon the people who live there. Good neighbors can create a community, a welcoming environment that extends the perception of comfort and security past the confines of the home. Bad neighbors on the other hand… there are countless horror stories that describe how uncomfortable, unhappy, and unsafe people can be made to feel in their own homes.
So what can homebuyers do? Statistics, rates, zones, and realty data can only go so far. To really get to know a neighborhood, potential buyers have to get out there and Meet the Neighbors!
Buyers, once you find a property you are interested in, get out there and get social! Try to find a time on the weekend or late afternoon and evening (after schools let out) when people are home. Bring your whole family, make it an event! Walk around and talk to people. Introduce yourself, explain that you are looking at a property and ask questions! Check out the local park or common area, eat in the local restaurant, pick up a coffee or ice cream at the local shop. Are you interested in the local church? Attend a service. See some community events advertised? Make it a point to go. Neighbors are an amazing source of information, from the local gossip about each other to the history of the property and the neighborhood itself.
Don’t be afraid to dig. Bring up the things that matter to you. Ask about the specific schools (not just the school system) that the kids attend, or how often the police patrol through the area and if they have to stop a lot. Ask about the quality of the municipal services or the frequency of issues like power outages or traffic jams. Ask about the community averages: ages, interests, employment. If the people there are a lot like you, share your interests and values, or are just genuinely likable, chances are you’ll be more comfortable living there. Ask about the house you are looking at – you could be surprised by how much the neighbors know about the property!
You have to BE in a place to get a feel for it. If you feel uncomfortable, hostile, or unsafe, then the home, no matter how great or affordable, probably isn’t for you. If you feel like you can be happy there, you are on the right track to finding a place to call home!
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About Tom Davidson — Tom Davidson is Vice President of Colibri Real Estate, LLC. which operates online education providers Colibri Real Estate, Insurance License Express and License Tutor. Follow him on Twitter.