It's natural to want to get the most bang for your buck when you buy a house. So perhaps you're tempted -- rather than seeking out an established, solidly middle-class community -- to purchase a home in a neighborhood that (you hope) is up-and-coming.
Maybe you've spotted a cute neighborhood with older houses that are slowly being remodeled. A few cafes have opened, and some offices are moving into the area. You've notice a new coffee shop and co-working space. And, tellingly, a look at the recent sales data shows you that home prices have climbed 10 percent year-over-year for that ZIP code. "Great," you think. "This is a clearly an emerging neighborhood. I'll buy here."
Not so fast! Before you sign on the dotted line, you need to seriously weigh the pros and cons against your personal values, goals and preferences to decide what's best for you.
11 Pluses and Pitfalls of Moving to an 'Up-and-Coming' Neighborhood
11 Pluses and Pitfalls of Moving to an 'Up-and-Coming' Area
If you're not one of the first ones to "discover" a gentrifying neighborhood, prices may have already climbed too high due to real estate speculation.
You may be familiar with the mantra "buy the worst house on the nicest block you can afford," a strategy for landing yourself in a desirable neighborhood without breaking the bank. "Invest in an up-and-coming neighborhood" is its cousin. You can find a house that meets your needs in an emerging neighborhood for way less than a comparable home in a more coveted area -- and soon enough (if all goes well), your area may be just as desirable.
Up-and-coming neighborhoods don't always up and come. Sometimes, an area that looks promising just gets stuck where it is. Investing in a neighborhood in transition is a calculated risk -- so calculate it before you buy.
If you want to live in the heart of a big city, but don't have the cash to afford a place downtown, finding a transitioning neighborhood on its fringe could be just the solution. You'll be close to where the action is -- and the revitalization will mean there's plenty of action directly around you, too -- but you won't pay sky-high prices.
Emerging neighborhoods can sometimes have higher crime rates than more-established locales. There's a chance gentrification will reduce that in the future, butin the near term, you'll have to decide if you're willing to live in an area that might not be as safe as you're used to.
Since the area you're considering isn't on the radar of the wider home-buying public -- yet -- you could enjoy some serious value appreciation (especially if you do some good renovation work), netting you more money when you eventually sell.
If you have kids -- or plan to soon -- you'll want to evaluate the quality of the school district they'd be going into. Gentrification tends to upgrade the quality of the schools in a neighborhood, but they may not have improved enough for your comfort by the time your kids hit the classrooms.
Up-and-coming neighborhoods offer a certain "coolness factor," as hip young people and artists tend to be among the first wave of gentrifiers. If you enjoy patronizing independent businesses, dining at new restaurants, and riding the forefront of the latest trends, you could feel right at home.
If you're living in an area with a lot of artists or students, it may be too noisy or messy. Make sure to visit properties you're interested in at different points of the day (Sunday morning, Monday evening rush-hour) to get a feel for what it's really like to live there.
People who move to emerging neighborhoods often actively identify with their communities. They're looking for like-minded people who care about the place they call home. As a result, you may find a real community spirit, with neighbors who are eager to get to know each other, pitch in and help the area realize its potential.
There's likely no neighborhood association to govern the exterior upkeep of houses -- but you might consider this a plus, as lack of a covenant-controlled community also lets homeowners express their personal style more freely.
Paula Pant ditched her 9-to-5 job in 2008. She's traveled to 30 countries, owns six rental units and runs a business from her laptop. Her blog, Afford Anything, is a gathering spot for rebels who refuse to say, "I can't afford it." Visit Afford Anything to learn how to shatter limits and live life on your own terms.