After the boring part of home buying is out of the way – the loan pre-qualification process, choosing a lender, and then finding a real estate agent, it’s time to go house shopping, which is the truly fun part of buying a home.
Have you started your wish list yet? If not, then I’d definitely recommend that the first section of your wish list should be all about location – where you want to live. Right down to narrowing the list down to several neighborhoods that you find appealing.
We believe in the “Google Earth” method of finding anything – start wide and then narrow down the search radius. Buying a home is not about seeing every listing that’s for sale, but eliminating as many listings as possible to find that one perfect fit! I find that the ‘lot’ itself and the neighborhood can eliminate a home from contention about 50% of the time so do some ride by’s. Get a feel for what neighborhoods you like and focus on those!
Get a feel during those ride by’s for what the listing agent ‘isn’t’ sharing online with all those beautiful photos! This could be a retaining wall that’s “3 feet” off the back patio. Could be major power lines in the back yard. Any number of environments that might be toxic to your resale value down the road! If a listing in this market has more than 60 days on the market you know upfront that something must be wrong with it!
As a buyer’s agent myself many times I’ll do a showing preview just to see if the listing shows in person like it does online before wasting your valuable time as a buyer!
To begin with though, you’ll need to decide whether you want to live downtown, in the suburbs or a more rural area. Let’s walk through some of the terminology you may see while shopping for a neighborhood and the pros and cons of each.
1. Urban Core
The most common name for living in the heart of a city is “downtown,” but the media in recent years have introduced another term, “urban core.”
In some areas of the country, such as Austin, Texas, the word “central” might be placed before the name of the city. So, if you live in an apartment in downtown Austin you would most likely tell folks you live in “central Austin.” In Atlanta it might be “intown” or “midtown.”
Housing choices in the urban core also depend on region. They can range from luxury condos to warehouse conversion lofts and apartments that sit atop businesses. One recent trend in the Atlanta market are “tiny” townhomes that are less than 800 sq feet!
Urban core residents typically like their neighborhoods because the housing is affordable (again, depending on region), it’s typically easy to get where you need to go on foot, they’re close to nightlife attractions, and these neighborhoods generally lack the shopping malls so prevalent in suburbia.
Drawbacks to downtown living include the lack of parking, more crime, and lots of transients.
There are as many different descriptions of the suburbs as there are neighborhoods within them. One thing most can agree on is that the suburbs are located outside of the urban core.
Sometimes called “bedroom communities,” the suburbs may offer a quieter, slower pace of life yet lack the uber-close proximity to many conveniences and entertainment options.
Zillow.com finds that more than half of millennial homebuyers are choosing the suburbs, so if you plan on selling your suburban home, you may want to target this group of buyers.
Money magazine studied suburbs and, in February 2018 came up with a list of “the best” in the U.S. They include:
- Peters, Missouri (a suburb of St. Louis)
- Vinings, Georgia (outside Atlanta)
- Schaumburg, Illinois (a suburb of Chicago)
- North Arlington, New Jersey (a New York suburb)
- New Berlin, Wisconsin (outside Milwaukee)
You can find the rest of the list at cnbc.com.
If you count yourself among those who dream of buying a home in the suburbs, plan on having a wide choice of home styles from which to choose: condos, townhomes and single-family homes.
Tip: Consider your commute before settling on the suburbs.
Whether you long for the small-lot subdivisions that became popular a few years ago or are seeking a large lot with manicured lawns and mature landscaping, subdivisions are always going to be in great demand – especially among families.
They may be located in the suburbs or near the urban core.
Subdivisions typically offer residents amenities and what is offered depends on region, developer and the price of the homes. In our market in Georgia we see swim/tennis offerings along with a playground, clubhouse, and some amount of green space.
Trying to describe the typical subdivision home is futile as the variety is huge. Those with cul-de-sacs, however, are popular with families with children.
4. Rural areas
If you’re seeking a sense of community and want to put down “roots,” choose a rural area in which to buy a home. According to Pew Research, 40 percent of rural residents know their neighbors.
Only 28 percent of suburban dwellers can say the same while 24 percent of urban core residents know their neighbors.
This is a surprising finding, considering the sparse population of most rural communities.
Choose a rural setting for your new home, and you’ll find that your neighbors exhibit a sharp divide in values and politics from the urban core dweller, according to Pew Research.
The populations of rural communities have been on the decline, so many are using incentives to attract new residents, according to a Zillow study. For instance, Tribune, Kansas, in its desire to attract new college graduates, offers the Rural Opportunity Zone program.
“They’ll help you pay off your student loans — up to $15,000 over the course of five years,” according to Brittan Jenkins at Business Insider.
Once you’ve decided on the type of “developed human settlement” (as Wikipedia calls them) that best appeals to you, narrow your home search to the neighborhoods that include the type of home you want and the price range.
Contact me, I’m happy to help.