20 Tips for Buying a Home in the Best Location, Location, Location

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Buying in the right neighborhood is critical to making money on your property as well as feeling at home. Here are ways to tell if you're making a good choice.

A great neighborhood sells a home, real estate agents say. It also helps your home hold value and makes it easy to sell when you decide to move on.

With all the pressure and excitement of home shopping, how can you know if a neighborhood is truly great?

Here are 20 clues that help you determine if you have the right neighborhood.

1. It meets your specs

Make a list of what you want and don’t want in a neighborhood, and shop for those qualities.

Describing his ideal neighborhood, Jay Walljasper, author of “The Great Neighborhood Book: A Do-it-Yourself Guide to Placemaking,” says he looks for “the invincible spirit of neighborliness (that’s) apparent even to a casual visitor.”

But what is ideal varies. Your ideal could be a close-knit community with trees, playgrounds and great schools. Mine might be a downtown block of clubs, shops and condos.

2. You like what you hear

Become an expert on the neighborhood that interests you. Get a feel for it by attending open houses, walking the neighborhood’s blocks, spending time in restaurants and coffee shops, and looking for community gardens.

Have your eye on a property in mind? Knock on doors and chat with neighbors on that street. Ask everyone who’ll talk with you about the crime, noise, traffic, neighborhood issues and general pros and cons.

3. You can get a latte

Upscale chain and independent retailers are signs a neighborhood is well-established or on the way up. These businesses signal a degree of affluence. Also, they’ve typically done market research to assure themselves the neighborhood is stable and worth the investment.

4. You see home improvements

Especially in the warm months, look for activity that shows owners are keeping up or investing in their properties. Improvements like new gutters, painting, re-roofing, gardening and landscaping, replacement windows, new fences and decks tell you they have pride in their homes.

5. Neighbors are organized

Block watches and neighborhood meetings are signs of a tight community. If you find a neighborhood group, attend a meeting or two to meet people and ask questions. Subscribe to any neighborhood newsletters.

Dennis P. Rosenbaum, director of the Center for Research in Law and Justice at the University of Illinois at Chicago, told MSN Real Estate:

“Crime is lower where people say they feel more attached to the neighborhood, more social connectedness, more responsibility for what goes on around them and a greater willingness to intervene when they suspect criminal activity.”

6. People are out on the streets

People on sidewalks and children walking to school and playing in parks tells you that they feel safe. An article at Veterans United asks:

Are there people sitting on their porches? Walking dogs? Taking their kids on a walk? If residents are willing to get out and walk around the neighborhood, that’s a good sign of its vitality and safety.

7. It passes muster after dark

Don’t think you know a place if you’ve only seen it in the middle of a weekday. Return repeatedly, at night and on weekends, to get a realistic picture.

8. Crime numbers are low

Don’t buy into a neighborhood without checking its crime statistics. City police department websites often publish them. In Chicago, for example, weekly crime statistics are reported by police district.

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