"Don't miss the forest for the trees!"
It's a simple piece of wisdom, but not one commonly applied to neighborhood searches. Unfortunately, it's a piece of advice that many new home buyers would do well to take to heart. It's easy to get lost in details such as school quality or walkability ratings, but a neighborhood can sometimes be greater (or less) than the sum of its parts. Choosing the right community is about more than merely maximizing a set of numerical values; it's about finding a place that is perfectly suited to you and your family. While it is easy to find advice on how to search for specific aspects of a neighborhood, this guide will walk you through the high-level steps necessary to find one that fits you like a glove.
Start With Your Limits…
You've found a beautiful home in a peaceful, quiet neighborhood. The schools are phenomenal, and the community is an exact match. Everything is perfect, except that it doubles your commute time. For some people, this might be an acceptable trade-off, but for others, it might be a dealbreaker. As you begin your home search, establish your limits. Are there unacceptable commute times? Do you need specific amenities within walking distance, or is it acceptable to drive everywhere? Write your limits down and keep them in mind at all times. It is often far too easy to be "wowed" by a great deal, only to realize too late that some aspect of the neighborhood is preventing you from thoroughly enjoying your new home.
...But Know Where You Can Compromise
There may be lines that you won't cross for a great deal, but you should be willing to compromise elsewhere. If commute time is essential, then you may need to choose neighborhoods with smaller yards or homes with less square footage. As with your limits, it's a good idea to establish early on which aspects of your home purchase you are willing to compromise. The higher your budget, the fewer compromises you should expect to make, but finding the perfect neighborhood is rare when working with anything other than an unlimited price point.
Visit a Variety of Neighborhoods
Establishing limits and areas of compromise should help you to narrow your search, but you will likely be left with a wide variety of neighborhoods that are both within your budget and acceptable in other ways. It can be tempting to use research to narrow this list further, but the most important thing you can do is to visit several of these neighborhoods in person. It is common for homebuyers to find that a community that may not seem perfect on paper is surprisingly charming in person. Likewise, there may be aspects of a seemingly great neighborhood that don't feel right once you see it for yourself. Keeping your options open until you see them in person is the best way to ensure that you don't miss out on your dream neighborhood. Find a seller of new homes near you to learn more.