As an Accredited Buyer Representative, I received a newsletter every month with the resources and tips to help me provide better services to buyers. I especially love this month’s topic — neighborhood selection. I decided to take the points emphasized in the newsletter and add relevant local information and personal experiences.
Many of my buyer clients do not realize that I as licensed real estate professional and Realtor, a member of the National Association of REALTOR, have to let them conduct their own due diligence when it comes to picking a neighborhood. Federal Fair Housing laws were created to ensure homebuyers are making their own free decision and aren’t being “steered,” so it is not unusual that you hear me say, “Yeah, this is one of those Fair Housing things.”
What are the most common questions my homebuyers have when choosing a neighborhood?
1. Schools — Are the public schools well regarded? What are the charter and private school options?
A school reputation can have a strong impact on the desirability of certain neighborhoods, making this a top concern for many buyers, even if they don’t have school-aged children. The commonly used resources for researching schools are web sites like greatschools.org, niche.com/k12 and Arizona public and charter schools Report Cards. Also visit the schools and talk with other parents, the faculty and administration to learn subtle insights into a school’s culture that is not apparent in test scores.
2. Crime — Will I feel safe in this neighborhood?
This is one of the questions I am asked a lot but how safe is safe varies so much from one client to anther. Trulia offers updated crime data for many municipalities and crimereports.com has crimes statistics and registered sex offender information. I also recommend buyers visit the neighborhood in the early morning, in the middle of the day, in the evening and on weekend to observe the residents, vehicles and activities and to talk with neighbors.
3. Transportation — How easy is it to get around? Is there convenient access to highways and public transit? Are there problems with traffic, lack of parking, etc.?
My advise to investors purchasing a single family home is always to stay within one or two miles to access to freeways. For homebuyers who have to commute to work, test-drive during the time of everyday commute. How well does the traffic flow? How easy or difficult is it to travel between different areas? Does the community allow street parking for extra family or company vehicles and your visitors? Is there RV parking for those who need it?
4. Demographics — Who else lives there? Will I be able to develop friendship? Will I feel welcome?
This is probably the least area I can discuss with homebuyers due to Fair Housing laws. This is best answered by neighbors and/or the seller.
5. Eating and Shopping — What restaurants and stores are nearby?
Being totally a food lover, this is my favorite question from homebuyers. I can provide all kinds of resources on this, beyond my own experiences, from local tourism office, chamber of commerce to TripAdvisor.com.
6. Recreation — Are there parks and other facilities for sports, entertainment, etc.?
Similar to restaurant and shopping, nearby parks and recreational facilities are important features for some buyers Some want to be near golf course, some want to be near hiking or biking trails and some want to be near park and playground. City hall, chamber of commerce and part/recreation department are typically good sources for this information.
7. House of Worship — Regardless of my faith, will I be able to find a new house of worship?
As a Realtor, I can’t “steer” buyers to a neighborhood because of his or her faith. Do not ask, “I am a Catholic so can you recommend a neighborhood where most people are Catholics like me?” However, it is okay to ask, “Where is the nearest mosque?”
Now we have all the right questions, there are some informal ways to do the research. Ask neighbors, go in a bus or train, shop in a store, wait in line at the grocery store, eat at a local restaurant of coffee shop, or stop by school and library. There are also neighborhood Facebook groups. Join to read the hot topics discussed among the community residents. You will gain tremendous insights.