Whether you are moving across country or across town, choosing just the right home, in just the right location, at just the right price can seem overwhelming. Before you find that perfect home, do your homework on your new city and the associated neighborhoods, so you can choose the right location that will meet the needs of your family.
One of the biggest factors in buyers’ remorse is location. People often fall in love with a house online, and fail to look at things like traffic patterns, schools, or walkability. They end up a little shell-shocked after moving in and discovering that it takes a hour to get to a grocery store or to work because of lack of convenient retail stores or horrible traffic. These factors impact quality of life, no matter how much you may love the house.
So don’t let this happen to you! Here are some things to consider when looking at a new neighborhood.
Crime is everywhere, so there isn’t a way to totally eliminate risks, even in gated communities. However, you definitely want to look at crime statistics when evaluating neighborhoods, because some areas may be more high risk than others.
If you find a house with a price that is too good to be true, check the other homes for sale in area. Look at crime statistics, and maybe even drive through the neighborhood to get a feel. While the house you are considering may look great, if it’s surrounded by boarded up, abandoned homes, or the neighbors are not keeping up with home and yard maintenance, then it may not be a great deal.
If you are looking at homes from across country, it can definitely be helpful to have a local Realtor you are working with, as they will have the inside scoop on neighborhoods in your new community, and will be able to advise you on neighborhood safety and which neighborhoods present the best opportunities within your budget.
While the initial cost of the home is important to your immediate pocketbook, you also want to consider neighborhood trends in home prices. Buying a home is an investment, and just like you would want to look for upward trends in prices before making a stock purchase, the same is true of your home. You want a neighborhood that is solidly growing in value.
Northern Virginia has been in a seller’s market for years, so home values are growing nearly everywhere. But there certainly are communities and neighborhoods that are growing faster than others. Those year major employment areas (such as the new Amazon HQ2), will enjoy tremendous growth in the coming years.
That said, you also need to balance the desirability of the neighborhood with your own budget. So make sure you know exactly what you can afford before you start looking. Highly desirable areas could come with a heart-stopping price tag. So you may need to make some compromises to find a home that meets your needs in a price range you can afford. This is another area where a Realtor can really help you. Their knowledge of the trends in neighborhoods may help you find a great value on a gem in a neighborhood that is just starting to gain attention.
Proximity and Traffic
When looking at a Google map, the distance from Point A to Point B may be only a matter of a few miles. However, in really congested areas, a few miles may take you an hour or more to traverse. So proximity and understanding the traffic patterns in your new neighborhood are important.
Look for multiple entrances/exits to the community. If there is only one way to get out, and everyone is leaving for work at the same time, then you may be waiting in a long line, just to get out of the subdivision in the morning. Look at traffic patterns on the roads you will need to take to work, school, or to your various recreational activities. How much time you spend on the road directly affects quality of life, not to mention the fact that it increases your costs, from car maintenance to fuel costs.
Make sure you also look for available public transportation options. Can you walk to a VRE station or bus stop? If you have to drive to a station, is there ample parking and how much does it cost?
Finally, don’t overlook your proximity to things like grocery stores and dining options. Most people don’t realize how much of a hassle it is not having a grocery story nearby, until they actually move and realize that the nearest grocery store is a 30 minute (or more!) round trip. Or the hassle of finding a place to eat when soccer practice runs late, and there are few options for a quick drive-thru meal.
Of course, some people prefer to be further away from the action, either due to affordability or because they want a little more space or little more privacy. Just know what you are trading, so that it doesn’t come as a surprise after you move in. Do your homework!
Northern Virginia has some great schools, and everyone wants to live near a high quality school. If you have kids, then schools near your neighborhood are likely already on your mind. However, keep in mind that test scores are only one measure, and an imperfect one at that. Many studies show that test scores are more a reflection of the wealth of the community than the actual quality of the education. So don’t rule out a community just because the schools’ test scores are a couple hundredths of a point below a similar school across town.
Before deciding, and if possible, take the time to tour the schools in the area. Meet the principals, talk to some teachers, maybe even talk to some local parents. Sometimes the perception that one school is better than another breaks down once you get to know the educators who will be interacting with your kids, or you hear from parents whose kids struggled in a “high performing” school. There could be a reason, so look beyond the rankings and test scores. Look also at the educational opportunities available, and your own child’s needs. If your child would fee swallowed up by a mega-school, then maybe a smaller school environment would be more beneficial. If your child is really into sports, or music, or drama, you may want to make sure the school has quality programs available.
Amenities and Entertainment
Neighborhood amenities vary, so decide what’s important to you before you start looking. Do you need a community with playgrounds or a pool? Walking trails for fitness or a nearby dog park for your pooch? Do you want to be close to parks and nature preserves? Or maybe, you’d rather be closer to vibrant nightlife and entertainment? All of these considerations should factor into your decision when choosing a neighborhood or community.
We can help you find your next home, that strikes a balance between price/value, location, schools, and other considerations! We are also veteran-friendly, and welcome the opportunity to help our service men and women find their perfect homes, whether they are searching locally or moving from abroad. If you are looking to buy or sell a home in Northern Virginia, we are always here to help with all your real estate needs! If you are unsure of your home’s value or if you are thinking about buying or selling, contact Jason at 703-298-7037 or Jason@JasonAndBonnie.com.