When searching for a new place to live, don’t feel confined to your current location. Yes, buying a home is a big commitment, but it’s also an opportunity to make a change and venture out into a new neighborhood or a new town altogether. But how will you know if a new area is really for you or if you’ll end up with buyers’ remorse soon after closing the deal? With a little bit of forethought and exploration, it’s easy to feel confident about your potential new neighborhood. Here’s where to start.
Ask yourself these five questions when choosing a home base.
What do you need to have nearby?
Yoga studio owner Annalisa Berns moved from Los Angeles to Big Bear, California, four years ago because she had an epiphany during her housing search—not only did she want to live in the mountains, but she also wanted a community that came equipped with a health food store and other yogis. “Those two things were critical to me,” she says.
Think about your day-to-day life, brainstorm the things that are important to you, then make a list of the amenities that you can’t do without. If living near a yoga studio or specific type of food store is a must-have, drive around the areas closest to those businesses to find pockets of neighborhoods that meet your needs.
Is walking important to you?
For a lot of people, not having stores or eateries within convenient walking distance is a definite no-go, so you should consider if it’s one for you, too. When scoping out at a potential new address, be sure to check Trulia’s amenity maps which pinpoint grocery stores, cafes, salons, and more to get the lay of the land.
“Walkability index is a biggie for me and my husband,” says avid sailor Dana Greyson. She and her husband factor in commutes when they search for housing back on dry land. “We want to have a place where, when we get home, we don’t have to get back into our car to live our life.”
Are you going for a quiet or lively environment?
You may love to hang out and party with friends in a certain bustling neighborhood every weekend, but would you want to buy a home there? Maybe not. Portland, Oregon, resident and realtor Jenelle Isaacson sees a lot of folks in the young, hipster city drawn to the most happening areas, only to find out they don’t exactly match their priorities—or noise-level preference.
“I’ve worked with many clients who are lured to a neighborhood by popular restaurants and coffee shops,” she says. “They want to hang their hats where they hang out on weekends, but when it comes to living in these areas, they suddenly find they don’t like the nuisance of so many other people coming to their neighborhood parking, making noise at night. Being in the middle of the party isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.”
The takeaway here? Reconcile the fact that if you love an area for its lively atmosphere, lots of others probably do too. Weigh the importance of having hot spots nearby with the importance of a good night’s sleep.
Do you want to have friends nearby?
Whether your besties are already in the neighborhood or you want to chum it up with your new neighbors, you should take into account the kind of social life you hope to have in your brand new home base. Atlanta, Georgia, veteran Carol Gee knew her new community was the one when a neighbor waved to her from across the street as Gee and her husband moved boxes—and they became longtime friends.
Think about how your new home is situated. If you’re on a cul-de-sac or across the courtyard from another neighbor, there’s going to be some required water cooler talk chat. “Some people really like to be in an area where their friends are nearby or at least close enough so they’ll come visit,” says real estate specialist Kathleen Perkins. Others not so much.
After you’ve done your research, does it seem like a place where you’d want to live?
Once you’ve done your due diligence, visiting your potential neighborhood during different hours of the day to get a real sense of it and checking to ensure all the boxes are checked on your must-have list, trust your gut.
Some say intuition is a gift, so go with it. If a neighborhood just feels right, it probably is. On the flip side, if anything gives you pause—hit the pause button. It may be time to try and reach out to residents (or realtors) who actually live there to get a first-hand perspective of what everyday life is like, or it may be time to move on.
Even moving just a few blocks or miles can make for a totally new neighborhood feel. Do your research, then go with your gut.
Articles that might be useful:
- How to Spot an Up and Coming Neighborhood in Your City
- How to Get Acquainted With Your Neighborhood
- Find Your Ideal School in a New Neighborhood
- New Neighborhood? 15 Things To Do Your First Week, Month, and Year
- I Bought My House Without Ever Seeing It
- 11 Telltale Signs It’s Time to Move
Originally published April 7, 2015; updated February 16, 2018.