Won't You Be My Neighbor

My Next Move: Since My Divorce
My Next Move: Since My Divorce

You've heard it before. When it comes to real estate, only three things matter: location, location, location. That's why it's a good idea to thoroughly research a neighborhood before you start looking for a home.

The Basics of Neighborhood-Hunting
How do you find the neighborhood that's right for you? Frankly, it can be a challenge. But the best place to start these days is often on the Internet. Buyers can now find all sorts of information online, including school and crime statistics, as well as demographic information about a neighborhood's residents.

In addition to researching the quality of a town's schools and the safety of its streets, it's also important to consider how home values in the area have been faring relative to neighboring towns. That's a critical piece of information when you're trying to determine whether buying a home in a particular location is a good investment.

When looking for a neighborhood, you also want to find an area that matches your needs and lifestyle. For some buyers that can mean considering proximity to public transportation or access to restaurants and entertainment. Other folks may be more interested in outdoor activities and willing to live a little farther out from a major city.

Whatever your preferences, you'll be happier if you put in the effort up front to find the town that's the right fit for you.

How to Research Neighborhoods
Due to the protections of the Fair Housing Act, real estate agents can't share information on school statistics, voting habits or religions in an area. But they can direct you to websites such as Schoolmatters.com or to local houses of worship where you'll be able to find more information on your own. You can also get a feel for life in a particular neighborhood by visiting it during different times of the day and evening.

To make your neighborhood hunt more efficient, consider narrowing down your options by using the nifty search features on a site like Neighborhoodscout.com.

"One of the really unique features that we offer on Neighborhoodscout.com is a match feature," says Andrew Schiller, co-founder and president of the site. "You could just type in an address from a neighborhood where you used to live or a neighborhood that you love and would have always wanted to live and find the neighborhoods that are the most similar to it anywhere you want to be."

The matching feature can be really helpful for buyers who are relocating to an unfamiliar part of the country and need help differentiating one neighborhood from another. It's also useful when buyers are trying to decide which part of a larger town has the better schools and higher home price appreciation, says Schiller.

"I let people express what it is that they want in a neighborhood and the area that they need to be in, and the search engine Neighborhoodscout will actually find it for them," Schiller says.

Why are we putting so much emphasis on neighborhoods? Well, if a house isn't perfect, you can change it by making repairs and renovations. But if you don't like your neighborhood, your options are much more limited. Luckily, with all the resources at your disposal, it's easier than ever to find your ideal neighborhood match.

Interested in learning more about the home buying process? Check out these AOL Real Estate videos:

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