When Zan and I were looking for the perfect house for our family, our number one priority was the neighborhood and surrounding area. We wanted excellent public schools as well as a safe, welcoming and thriving community. We took the popular advice to buy the worst house in the nicest area we could afford. There were many times I wanted to ditch that idea when I found my move-in ready dream home located in an iffy neighborhood. It was actually very frustrating, but reading these hilarious cards from Trulia made us realize weʼre not alone in the purely agonizing experience that is home buying! We stuck to what we knew was right for us and havenʼt looked back. LA is the 2nd largest city in the US, so you can imagine how many areas we had to research before choosing the one we ended up scoping out for two years! Below, Iʼm sharing my six tips for choosing a neighborhood thatʼs right for you!
1. Choose an area before you start your house search… To help with the stress and overall ups and downs of buying a home, narrow it down to 1 or 2 dream neighborhoods you like. Zan and I wasted time and energy looking all over the city, until we finally decided to narrow down our search to the 1 neighborhood we wanted to buy in. Once we did that, we were able to monitor the market in that specific area. It was actually a relief to settle on an area we loved and we were willing to wait until something opened.
2. Talk to the neighbors!
One of our favorite things about where we live, compared to other areas we researched, are the neighbors. A few of them have become great friends of ours over the past year. Before we bought the house, we spoke to residents who shared the good and the bad about the area. They gave us a bit of history about the house and the neighborhood. I even asked how the houses held up in the 1994 earthquake, about break-ins and other concerns we had. It’s one of the friendliest neighborhoods we’ve ever experienced where most people wave hello, stop by to say hi and even drop things off around the holidays. We got a feel for this before we moved in!
3. Don’t settle.
No matter how perfect the house is, don’t settle if the area isn’t ideal. It’s so cliché, but it’s all about — “location, location, location.” Like I mentioned before, buy the worst house in the best area and you won’t regret it in many years when you’ve made it the cutest house on the best block and in the most desirable area. You can always change the house, but not the neighborhood!
4. Get schooled.
Many home buyers say, “Well the schools aren’t the best, but we’ll move in a few years before the kids get to school, so we’re not worried.” Zan and I want to send Romeo to a public school, so it was very important to us that whatever area we chose had fantastic schools too. Many of our friends have been stuck in the situation where they don’t move and then need to pay for private school or rent an office to get that address for theirchildren to attend the better school. If you’re planning on having children, make sure you consider the schools!
Crazy story… before we narrowed down our search based on the right area, we found a house we really liked. The area was decent, but definitely not our dream neighborhood. We figured (like in #4) weʼd live there for 5 years, sell it and move. When we searched the address on the Meganʼs Law website, a blue dot showed up ON the house! No really, on the actual house we were looking to buy!!! To say we were shocked is an understatement. Thatʼs when we decided weʼd rather buy the crappier house in the better area. When choosing a neighborhood, check sites like Truliaʼs Crime Map, Meganʼs Law and even call the local police department for an overview of the area. We did all three and have no regrets!
6. Take a walk.
Having a few restaurants, a coffee shop and other conveniences within walking distance is a nice addition to owning your piece of the rock. Drive around the area and use your odometer to see how far the closest shops are or park and take a walk to get an idea. Getting exercise while walking to the coffee shop is great but not if it’s marathon distance!
Check out the rest of Trulia’s home buying moments postcards here!