You’ve heard it before; location, location, location. When deciding where to purchase a house, the location should play a big part in your decision-making. The first thing to decide is what city or town will be the best for your new home, then you can start drilling down to find the ideal neighborhood or community. There are four main factors to consider when deciding where to live: convenience, safety, amenities and cost. You will need to size things up for you, a spouse, kids, pets or anyone else who will live in your home. Here’s a look at each factor, why they’re so important to finding the right home, and some resources to help answer, “Where should I live?”
Factor #1: Convenience
Arguably, this is the biggest factor to consider for you and your household. How does convenience factor into choosing where I should live? Well, do you want to live in the heart of the city where you can walk or ride your bike a total of three blocks (round trip) to grab fresh produce from the farmers market, visit your bank, pick up your dry cleaning and stop to have lunch with a friend? Or do you prefer driving to your destinations, where you can go through the Starbucks drive-thru, stock up on bulk items at big box stores once a month, and shop around the suburban outlet malls?
To determine how “convenience” impacts your quality of life, consider some of the these important contributors to convenience:
- Your commute to work: We understand some heroes may be required to live near work, or they simply prefer to be close to work. But if there is not a required distance for you, what is the maximum amount of time you want to spend commuting to and from work? Knowing this will help determine the maximum number of miles you want to live away from work.
- Distance from family: What is the maximum distance you’re willing to travel to visit your family members? What family members need to be closer to you? For example if you need to keep tabs on your father who lives alone, living closer to your father is priority number one over other relatives.
- Keep friends near and dear: If time with friends is important to you, minimizing the drive time between them is probably a good play for you.
- Active lifestyle, kids or dog: If you’re active, have kids who often need to let off some steam, or a dog that needs to run; having local playgrounds, parks and walking/biking paths nearby is probably important.
- Shopping options: When it comes to shopping, some people only need the bare necessities, where others want more variety and specialty stores. Some people buy groceries daily. Others buy groceries in bulk, stock up and maximize their cost savings.
Factor #2: Safety
Safety is important to our heroes. While on the job, many of our heroes deal with bad people and the bad things people do, so they understand first-hand how to be precautious and how to protect themselves. The location of your home can play a big part in providing a safe place for your family. You may be familiar with the online tools below. We recommend these tools to help home buyers gauge the general health of a neighborhood or community. And, the good news is they are free for general use!
- AreaVibes: Is free to use. Simply enter a state, city, neighborhood, or specific address into their website’s search box and it will map the location and provide a home buyer with a proprietary “livability score” that ranges from 1 to 100 based on grades received for seven livability factors.
- NeighborhoodScout: Provides local crime stats and other important local data to help a home buyer decide if a neighborhood is right for you and/or your family. Most of the information provided is free, but the site does offer more detailed data and reports for a fee.
- CrimeReports: Is free to use. Search by address, zip code, or law enforcement department to see a map of recent police incident reports and activity. You can narrow it down to a specific neighborhood to reveal different types of crime.
- SpotCrime: It is free to use. It maps crimes but also provides an alert service via email or several social platforms, including Facebook and Twitter. They gather public information from law enforcement departments and media outlets to map out neighborhood crimes. It also allows a user to report a crime or tip anonymously.
- FamilyWatchdog: Generates a map with address information of nearby registered sex offenders. Color-coded icons illustrate the type of crime; including crimes against children, sexual battery, and rape. This website is free to use, but if you want specific background information on offenders, you will be directed to a third-party site to sign up and pay for a subscription.
There is something to consider before buying a home in a higher crime neighborhood. Even if you’re comfortable living in an area with higher crime, others may be reluctant. This can make it harder to resell your home if you decide to move. Then again, if the neighborhood improves, you could see your home value increase at a much faster rate than a neighborhood with less crime. Doing your research and learning about recent neighborhood trends is a helpful strategy to finding the right home for you and your family, and making sound financial investment in your home for the future.
Factor #3: Community and House Amenities
Sure, you want a home that has enough bedrooms, bathrooms and overall square footage to meet your needs. But, buying a house is so much more. We created a one-sheeter, printable Home Buying Checklist that provides a great overview of many house amenities to consider. Here is a brief breakdown of main categories of house amenities to think about:
- Property: Some options include waterfront, golf course, city, suburb, mountains, cul-de-sac or gated community.
- Home Style and Material: Some of the most popular home styles include; a-frame, colonial, contemporary, mediterranean, ranch, bungalow and victorian. Materials used on the house can include brick, concrete block, wood, metal, stone, siding, stucco, veneer, or shingle.
- Yard: The size of the lot is important. But what about a deck or patio, pool, spa, sauna, fireplace or fire pit, trees and landscaping, garden, or a sprinkler system? Do they rank high on your list of amenities?
- Type of Home: Do you want to live in a single-family, condo, townhouse or duplex? The type of home you want can play a big role in the communities you target. Also consider the age of the home (year built), number of rooms, bathrooms, stories or levels, heat and AC types, garage or parking and storage. One thing many forget about is what direction does the home face? When you wake up in the morning, do you want the sun beaming through your bedroom windows?
- Type of Room(s): Some of the room types home buyers prefer include a basement, home office, home theater, den, loft, family room, gym or workout room, sunroom or a guest room.
- Flooring: Some people want carpet and others want wood, but there are other options including stone, tile, laminate, vinyl or linoleum.
When one asks, “where should I live,” one must consider the important personal amenities provided by a neighborhood or community. These are tied closely to the convenience factor:
- Schools: This is a workplace for some of our heroes and living close can have its benefits. If you have school-aged children, or you plan to have children in the near future, evaluating the school district and the schools your children would attend is an important consideration before deciding on a neighborhood. Many parents prioritize schools over most amenities. Be sure to check out two great resources: SchoolDigger and GreatSchools. These sites will give you some insight on the schools in your target neighborhoods. Great Schools also incorporates feedback from parents.
- Recreation or Community Center: Many people like to have affordable community activities close to their home. Classes, sports or group activities, craft fairs, bake sales, farmers market and other events or activities bring the community together. They also give kids plenty of activities away from home where they can ride their bikes, or walk with their peers without supervision.
- Park, Outdoor Recreation and Nature: Outdoor jungle-gyms, recreational facilities and nature centers provide a place to enjoy the outdoors. Many of us like to breath the fresh air and soak up a little nature while walking, running, or even cross-country skiing. How important is your nature escape?
- Public Transportation Accessibility: Do you need access to the public transportation lines? Do you want access to public bike or scooter sharing options? What about simply having easy access to major highways? These are important when considering where to live.
- Gym or Workout Facility Available: Working out is a priority for many of our heroes. Are you an active person who is dedicated to working out and wants access to a gym or workout facility? Find out whether your current club or gym is available in your targeted neighborhoods. Maybe you will need to find a comparable establishment that can replace your current facility.
- Entertainment and Shopping: There are many places to shop if that’s your thing. You will need to decide how close that needs to be to your home to fulfill your needs. If you like to venture out for entertainment; like eating out at restaurants, dancing at clubs, having a few drinks with friends at the local watering hole, attending movies or sporting events; then it’s wise to keep these facilities in close proximity.
- Near Healthcare and Emergency Facilities: These facilities are work places for many of our heroes, so living close minimizes commute times. For many of us, having these facilities close to home is important and comforting when it comes to emergency response times or ease of access.
Factor #4: Home Location Costs
The biggest cost you will have is the purchase price of your home. This will play a role in where you decide to live. It is good practice to determine how much house you can afford and to receive a mortgage loan pre-approval from your loan officer. Knowing what you can afford will help identify neighborhoods with homes in your price range.
Take a look at home values in your target neighborhoods. Look at the home values in the surrounding neighborhood to determine if you’re buying the most expensive house on the block or getting a steal in a desirable neighborhood. Look at the historic resale value of homes as well.
The community you decide upon will also determine how much you pay in property taxes and homeowners insurance. The location of your home will also affect how much you pay for important, but less significant expenses like gas, groceries and other household needs.
Save Money in Any Location
No matter where you decide to live, Homes for Heroes can save you money on your next home purchase. Simply register online and we will connect you with our real estate and/or mortgage specialists in your local area. Our expert specialists will answer your questions and share their knowledge of the local market to help you find the home that’s right for you. They will also save you substantial money. Heroes save an average of $2,400 by working with our real estate and mortgage specialists to purchase a new home.
Ready to find your dream home in the perfect location? Register with Homes for Heroes and let us save you money on a house in your ideal neighborhood.