When it comes time to buy a home your are not just buying a house. Not only do you want the perfect house you also want the perfect community to suit you and your families lifestyle and needs. Choosing a community to live in can be equally as important as the house you choose to buy.
For most home buyers identifying communities that suit their needs is usually done prior to even looking at homes to purchase.
Finding the right community to purchase a home in can certainly enhance your quality of life as well as fit nicely with your lifestyle.
Choosing a Community to Live In
Following are 8 aspects to consider when choosing the community that will best fit your family. The right community can certainly enhance your quality of life and lifestyle, so it is important to choose your community wisely.
For most people affordability of the real estate inventory in a particular neighborhood or community is going to dictate what towns a home buyer will choose to find a new home.
Still this could be wildly variable as one could choose to get a much larger home in one community but may identify with a more expensive community and choose to get a much lesser home.
It should go with out saying that some communities just may not be in everyone’s budget. Affordability is also going to play a huge factor in the other criteria in finding just the right community.
Commute to Work
The community you choose can be dictated by what you consider an acceptable time it takes to commute to work. Your quality of life can be drastically impacted by the amount of time spent commuting to work.
For some having access to public transportation like the commuter rail, subway or bus line is a must. As you get farther out from the cities this can start to limit your available options.
Here in the greater Boston area. Many moderately affordable communities are 30 or miles away and it is not unusual to find commuters spending 2 or more hours commuting to work.
Sphere of Influence
Who do you connect with on a regular basis? Where are they located? If you spend a lot of time with family and or friends where are they located?
You don’t want to spend hours every week driving to and from your mom’s or sister’s house or gatherings with your friends. Choosing a community in close proximity to your sphere of influence can certainly improve your quality of life.
Crime and Safety
Everyone want to feel safe in their home and on their property. Determining your tolerance level for feeling safe is an important considerations.
It goes with out saying gaining the benefits of living in a city may have the downsides of higher crime rates. Also not everyone can live in the safest community.
School systems can be a huge driving factor for many families that have school aged children. Many will sacrifice house size or affordability to get the best school systems they can for their school aged children. Others with no children may find they can get much more of what they are looking for in a home if schools systems are not a huge priority.
In my little section of the world, the Greater Boston area, there is generally a direct correlation between home prices and the cost of housing. Communities with the best school systems tend to have home that carry a very hefty price tag.
Access to Healthcare
With an aging population and many of the Baby Boomers and Gen X downsizing for retirement want to be close to their doctors and medical facilities. Or, maybe you have a family member that requires a high level of healthcare and having easy access to medical care is important.
Being close to your medical professionals and your preferred hospitals can play a big role in the community you may choose to live in depending on your particular circumstances.
The lifestyle you choose to live may help identify the perfect community for you.
Do you enjoy quiet and solitude that may come with a smaller, less condensed community or do you prefer the hustle and bustle of a city?
Think about what you do in your down time or what you would like to do in your down time.
If you are a two income family running kids from school to home to soccer practice etc…. maybe a community that allows you to run your errands too and from work and dropping the kids off is best for you. A busier suburban community will provide all your basic needs close to home, rather than a small community that may make you travel a town or two away for basic amenities.
If you like to plug into cultural events, museums, etc… living close to a major city or in the city may be a better life choice for you.
What amenities do you want your community to have readily available to your family that help create the lifestyle you want?
Maybe you want basic shopping like grocery stores and pharmacies within a few minutes from your home. Or maybe you prefer a community that provide more than the basics and like department stores in close proximity to your home.
Colleges, libraries, adult education, churches, restaurants can all be amenities that some communities can provide. The nearby amenities will help achieve the lifestyle you are seeking.
If your unfamiliar with the area check out the nearby amenities and conveniences and make sure they suit your needs.
How to Go About Choosing the Right Community to Live In
For some home buyers they may be very familiar with the communities they can afford and what they have to offer.
But for others. you may find yourself in unchartered territory.
First a buyers agent can certainly help you identify communities that may suit your needs. They are out and about and know everyday and can help you make some decisions and provide you with data about the communities.’
Secondly, if you are unfamiliar with a community this is something I suggest to my home buyers.
Pick 5-15 houses in a community that are for sale and fit your criteria. Don’t be overly picky about the homes. Map them out and drive by each one. Pay attention to the overall community as well as each individual neighborhood. Get familiar with different parts of the town.
While your out, make sure you identify the downtown, some of the schools and some of the amenities like shopping, the library etc…
The Grocery Store Test
Want to see who your neighbors are and get a feel for the community? Walk around the grocery store, these are people who are sharing your community with you. Take it one step farther and seek out one of the local breakfast spots. This is another great way to see who your potential neighbors are….. I have suggested this to many buyers, they have loved the idea and have thanked me for suggesting they do this.
Experiences of Others
If you have specific communities in mind, think of who you may know that lives in that community that you can talk to. Family, friends and co-workers may have some great insights for you about a specific community and can certainly answer any questions you may have.
Resources to Get Basic Community Data
Here is a list of websites to get some data regarding communities you may be interested in living in. They all provide free information. Some of the sites may require a subscription to gain full access.
Even with all this data nothing beats a visit to a community of interest.
- Wikepedia– Wikepedia will give some great basics on a community. Population, population density, town government, a basic history and description and more…
- Google Maps- Google maps will help you plan your trips and let you know what is located in an area in which you would like to buy a house.
- City-Data.com– Information rich site providing data and statistics for a community.
- Town Website– Peruse the town website and get an idea of tax base and any other info they may have to offer.
- Towns Historical Society– A historical society in a town will give a great overview of the towns history and how it grew into the town it is today.
- GreatSchools.net– This site has a rating system for schools systems and parent reviews for each individual school in the district.
- Sperlings Best– Overall stats on a town.
- REALTOR.com– Provides some great overall community info
- Walkscore.com– This is a great site to discover how walkable a communities amenities are to a specific location.
- Neighborhood Scout– Provides some overall data for a community.
- Clean Up My Community– An EPA Site that will map out Superfund and Brownstone sites in a community.
- Department of Justice– This site will bring you to the Sex Offender Registry in each state.
- Yelp- Yelp can help you find restaurants and other services.
Finding the Balance
When it comes time to buy a home there is much to think about. I have given you a few things to think about when choosing the town and even the neighborhood you want to live in.
Unfortunately for most home buyers you can’t always get everything you want. You need to find the balance between affordability, community, lifestyle, school system etc… that can best fit what you want for you and your family.
I have have been practicing real estate for many years and buying a home many times is finding a compromise between your wants and needs. It doesn’t matter if your buying a $250k condo or a $1.4 million dollar house…. compromises will usually be made. Of course different compromises, but they will be made.
Other Resources on Finding the Right Neighborhood in the Right Community:
- Bill Gassett- Things to Consider About the Neighborhood When Buying a Home
- Anita Clark- Buying a Home in a Neighborhood is a Smart Move
- Dan Barcelon- Researching Your New Neighborhood
- Jeff Nelson- Choosing the Right Neighborhood for You
Choosing a Community to Live In is provided by Kevin Vitali a Massachusetts REALTOR. If you would like to sell your home or buy a new home give me a call at 978-360-0422 and let’s get the process started.
Real Estate Services in the following areas: Northeast Massachusetts, Merrimack Valley, North Shore and Metrowest. Including the following communities and the surrounding area- Amesbury, Andover, Billerica, Burlington, Chelmsford, Dracut, Groveland, Haverhill, Lowell, Melrose, Merrimac, Methuen, Middleton, North Andover, North Reading, Reading, Stoneham, Tewksbury, Tyngsborough, Wakefield, Wilmington, Westford