After the boring stuff is out of the way – the loan application process, choosing a lender and then hiring a real estate agent, it’s time to go shopping, the truly fun part of buying a home. Finding a neighborhood is your first step.
Have you started your wish list yet? The first section should be all about location …or where you want to live.
We believe in the “Google Earth” method of finding anything – start wide and then narrow down the search radius.
At the wide end of the spectrum, 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.
Neighborhood #1: Urban Core
The most common name for living in the heart of a city is “downtown,” but the media 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.”
Housing choices in the urban core also depend on region. They can range from luxury penthouse condos to warehouse conversion lofts and apartments that sit atop businesses.
Your neighbors will be diverse as well, including a mix of low-to-middle income folks, the affluent and seniors.
Urban core residents 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 trying to find parking, more crime and lots of transients.
Popular urban core neighborhoods include downtown Los Angeles, Battery Park City in Manhattan and downtown Seattle.
Neighborhood #2: Suburbs
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 offer a quieter, slower pace yet lack the uber-close proximity to many conveniences and entertainment venues.
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.
Tip: Consider your commute before settling on the suburbs.
Neighborhood #3: Subdivisions
Whether you long for the small-lot subdivisions that became popular in the Los Angeles area a few years ago or are seeking a large lot with manicured lawns and mature landscaping, subdivisions are still 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.
Larger subdivisions may have a park or three for residents, a clubhouse, community pool, and bicycle or pedestrian trails. But the sky is the limit – literally – in some subdivisions.
Tip: Watch out for high homeowner association fees.
Just outside of Charlotte, North Carolina you will find Aero Plantation, home to 90 families. It’s what is known as a fly-in subdivision and light aircraft have the right-of-way on all the roads. Lots are huge – 2 acres minimum – and there’s also a forest and lake in the community.
Trying to describe the typical subdivision home is futile as the variety is huge. Those with cul-de-sacs, however, typically house lots of families with children.
Neighborhood #4: Rural areas
If you’re seeking a sense of community and want to put down “roots,” choose a rural area. 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 declining, 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 us, we’re happy to help.