Location, Location, Location… Located in a desirable neighborhood…scream the typical real estate flyers.
What exactly is “location” or a “desirable” neighborhood? I like to refer to it as neighborhood health. Agents know it when we see it, but we really don’t like to talk about the dynamics, as the dreaded “steering” word inevitably pops into the conversation.
Healthy neighborhoods have some common factors:
- People take care of their homes. Yes, you see the occasional, non-cared for lawn, but homeowners maintain their homes for the most part. A large part of this is that most of the homes are owner-occupied versus rentals. This makes a big difference in maintenance of a property.
- Schools in these areas consistently get good ratings. Good schools tend to mean good parental involvement. Educated people value education for their children and are involved.
- Socioeconomic status. Yes, I know this will stir the pot for some of you, but better educated people tend to have better paying jobs, which means home ownership, which means they can maintain them, which helps neighborhood health.
- Lower crime rates. All areas have some sort of crime rate, from the nuisance crimes such as grafitti or car break ins, to more serious crimes. Crimes in healthy areas tend to be of the nuisance type. They also tend to have neighborhood watches.
- Easy Access. Easy access to stores, doctors, things we need everyday. Most people don’t want to drive for a 1/2 hour to get groceries. This doesn’t apply for people that choose a rural lifestyle. There are many healthy rural areas.
- Stability. The top 5 together create a stable neighborhood. While homes go up for sale every year, you won’t see 10 on one block at a time. Homes tend to sell well even in down markets. My neighbor across the street sold his home FSBO in 3 months in this down market. Stabiliy is one factor in good resalability.
- Community. Whether you live in the hustle and bustle of a vibrant downtown area, a subdivision, or a country lane, all desirable areas have a sense of community. You will see residents out and about at the local parks, taking walks, walking dogs, exercising, etc. They not only live in their homes; they live in the community itself.
How can you find out if you are moving into a healthy neighborhood? You can start with the basics.
- Crime rates are posted online for most major city police departments, if not head down to the police department for more information.
- Look to see how the department of education is rating local schools, and are they consistently rated well. Some areas on the rise in improvements are seeing an equal rise in school ratings. That is a sign of improving health.
- Check out the local neighborhood association. The local neighborhood association keeps tabs on owner-occupied stats vs. rentals. If rentals are on the decrease, it’s a sign of improving health. It also gives you an idea of the community involvement.
- Visit the neighborhood at different times. Are people walking around outside, playing at the local parks, maintaining their homes. People should be living in the community if it is healthy.
- Contact a local real estate agent. They can calculate appreciation rates for local neighborhoods, and tell you how often homes sell and how fast. They can also tell you which areas are improving in health, which ones are becoming unhealthy and where the city is shifting money to revitalize.
You don’t have to live by a golf course or suburbia to live in a healthy neighborhood. Healthy neighborhoods come in all varieties and all income levels, but still have the same basics. There are many areas that have been “unhealthy” in the past that are on their way to good health. There are also many “pockets” of health within some unhealthy areas as well. Decreasing crime, better school report cards, fewer homes for sale are all indications that a neighborhood is increasing its health.