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

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 you have found the right location.

1. It meets your specs

Kinga / Shutterstock.com

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 the concept of what’s 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

Kostyazar / Shutterstock.com

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 specific property? 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

I love coffee / Shutterstock.com

Upscale chains 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

Stuart Monk / Shutterstock.com

Especially in 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

Evgeny Murtola / Shutterstock.com

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

6. People are out on the streets

Asia Images Group / Shutterstock.com

Seeing people on sidewalks or children walking to school and playing in parks tells you that they feel safe, and that they enjoy the neighborhood in which they live.

7. It passes muster after dark

Evgeniya Uvarova / Shutterstock.com

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

John Roman Images / Shutterstock.com

Don’t buy into a neighborhood without checking its crime statistics. Check municipal police department websites for statistics or search local newspaper sites.

9. School test scores are strong

Tom Wang / Shutterstock.com

Where school test scores are strong, home prices are high. Search the GreatSchools website for ratings of schools in the neighborhood you’re considering. The nonprofit’s ratings are based on academic data such as standardized test scores.

10. It’s walkable

Monkey Business Images / Shutterstock.com

Do cars dominate? Or do sidewalks and streets encourage pedestrians and bicyclists? Sidewalks wide enough for outdoor cafes, benches and strolling give a place a neighborly feel.

Look up an address or ZIP code on the Walk Score website or mobile app to obtain a “walkability” rating for neighborhoods or cities. Scores range from zero (“car dependent”) to 100 (“walker’s paradise”). They are based on walking distances to area amenities, population density and road metrics like block length.

11. Bus stops abound

gpointstudio / Shutterstock.com

Can you easily find buses, subways and rail lines nearby? These can be attractive features in a neighborhood, although you may not want to live right next to such stops.

12. It’ll work for you for 5 to 7 years

Rob Marmion / Shutterstock.com

So, a hip, edgy, gentrifying downtown district is your dream location right now? But will it work later, if you add children or an aging parent to your household? Or if you change jobs?

Don’t count on being able to sell and move quickly. Instead, make sure the neighborhood suits your needs for at least the next five years.

13. Ownership is high

VGstockstudio / Shutterstock.com

Neighborhoods with high homeownership rates are more stable. However, there are exceptions. For example, you can expect renters to outnumber buyers in expensive places like New York City and San Francisco.

Typically, renters are more mobile than homeowners. Longtime residents watch out for one another, making for a safer community.

14. Homes sell quickly

Andy Dean Photography / Shutterstock.com

Fast turnaround of homes for sale indicates a neighborhood in hot demand. A real estate agent can run “comps” (short for “comparables”) to tell you how quickly homes are selling.

Other clues to a neighborhood in demand include employers moving in with new jobs, a growing population and a limited supply of homes for sale.

15. Homes hold value

fstockfoto / Shutterstock.com

You can find historical sale prices in a county’s property tax records. Many counties put these online. Or ask your real estate agent for neighborhood sales trends.

If you’re considering a bargain home in a neighborhood of foreclosures, consider whether future homebuyers would want this neighborhood when you are ready to sell.

16. The commute is doable

XiXinXing / Shutterstock.com

Homes located close to major employers and in city centers usually are in high demand.

17. City services are good

Dmitry Kalinovsky / Shutterstock.com

Is the trash picked up? Are streets paved and well-maintained? Beware of broken streetlights, cracked sidewalks and vacant homes with cracked windows and an overgrowth of weeds.

18. You see plenty of churches

Blend Images / Shutterstock.com

You don’t have to be religious to appreciate that churches, mosques and synagogues are signs of community strength, and evidence that residents are connected and invested.

19. It has police and fire stations

V J Matthew / Shutterstock.com

Find the nearest fire and police stations and fire hydrants. Nearby public safety services add to a sense of neighborhood security. Also, a firehouse nearby might even mean lower homeowners insurance premiums.

20. (Good) change is coming

ilkercelik / Shutterstock.com

Major economic development can change neighborhoods dramatically. So, find out what’s going on in your prospective neighborhood.

One parting tip: Before you start looking for a house, shop for a mortgage to learn how much you can borrow. That way, you’ll know how much house you can afford before you get emotionally invested in a particular property. Stop by our Solutions Center to find the best mortgage rates.

Do you have other hints to add to this list? Share them with us in the comments below or on our Facebook page.

How to find cheaper car insurance in minutes

Getting a better deal on car insurance doesn't have to be hard. You can have The Zebra, an insurance comparison site compare quotes in just a few minutes and find you the best rates. Consumers save an average of $368 per year, according to the site, so if you're ready to secure your new rate, get started now.

Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, we sometimes receive compensation when you click links within our stories.

Read Next
Could You Give Up These 7 Expenses to Save Thousands of Dollars a Year?
Could You Give Up These 7 Expenses to Save Thousands of Dollars a Year?

These monthly costs eat at your disposable income. Here’s what you’d save if you cut them entirely or even trim them just 10%.

8 Amazon Picks Under $30 for Coffee Lovers
8 Amazon Picks Under $30 for Coffee Lovers

We’ve brewed up a list of amazing Amazon products that are sure to perk you up.

3 Reasons You Can’t Rely on Medicare Alone
3 Reasons You Can’t Rely on Medicare Alone

Counting on Medicare to cover health care costs can jeopardize your retirement plans.

70% of Older Adults Botch This Basic Retirement Question
70% of Older Adults Botch This Basic Retirement Question

Can you answer this fundamental retirement income question?

How to Avoid Being Surprised by 7 Nasty Expenses
How to Avoid Being Surprised by 7 Nasty Expenses

Major expenses are difficult to predict, but there are ways to make sure you’re protected.

View this page without ads

Help us produce more money-saving articles and videos by subscribing to a membership.

Get Started

Most Popular
Will I Get My Ex-Husband’s Social Security When He Dies?
Will I Get My Ex-Husband’s Social Security When He Dies?

Two factors determine how much money is coming to you.

7 Ways to Boost Your Credit Score Fast
7 Ways to Boost Your Credit Score Fast

Your financial security might soon depend upon the strength of your credit score.

21 Things You Should Always Buy at a Dollar Store
21 Things You Should Always Buy at a Dollar Store

Dollar stores have great bargains on these familiar purchases.

5 Household Disinfectants That Can Destroy the Coronavirus
5 Household Disinfectants That Can Destroy the Coronavirus

You likely already have some of these products at home.

6 Reasons I Will Never Trust Suze Orman
6 Reasons I Will Never Trust Suze Orman

Beware: The self-proclaimed personal finance expert has a track record that suggests more sizzle than steak.

20 Things That Are Actually Worth Stockpiling
20 Things That Are Actually Worth Stockpiling

You probably don’t need a year’s supply of toilet paper to survive an outbreak, but consider stocking up on these items.

13 Brilliant Bulk-Buy Items on Amazon
13 Brilliant Bulk-Buy Items on Amazon

Every household should have these products on hand. Buying them in bulk on Amazon saves you cash.

America’s Most Reliable Appliance Brand Is a Surprise
America’s Most Reliable Appliance Brand Is a Surprise

Have you heard of this appliance manufacturer?

This Type of Social Security Benefit Is Often Overlooked
This Type of Social Security Benefit Is Often Overlooked

The Social Security Administration is not helping certain people get money to which they are entitled, a report says.

Getting These 2 Shots Could Reduce Your Risk of Dementia
Getting These 2 Shots Could Reduce Your Risk of Dementia

These vaccines may lower the risk of Alzheimer’s disease by up to 40%.

16 Amazon Purchases That We Are Loving Right Now
16 Amazon Purchases That We Are Loving Right Now

These practical products make everyday life a little easier.

9 Everyday Problems You Can Solve With Vaseline
9 Everyday Problems You Can Solve With Vaseline

Forget expensive specialty products. Good ol’ petroleum jelly can address many common annoyances.

8 Things That Are Free in August
8 Things That Are Free in August

As summer enters the home stretch, we’ve rounded up these sizzling freebies.

10 Deep Discounts Available on Amazon This Friday
10 Deep Discounts Available on Amazon This Friday

These items are all steeply discounted — but the deals won’t last long.

19 Purchases That Buyers Almost Always Regret
19 Purchases That Buyers Almost Always Regret

Think twice before buying these things.

19 High-Paying Jobs You Can Get With a 2-Year Degree
19 High-Paying Jobs You Can Get With a 2-Year Degree

These jobs pay more than the typical job in the U.S. — and no bachelor’s degree is required.

7 Tips for Building an Emergency Stockpile
7 Tips for Building an Emergency Stockpile

A pandemic or natural disaster could leave you reliant on your existing food supply. Is your pantry prepared?

8 of the Worst Things to Buy at a Dollar Store
8 of the Worst Things to Buy at a Dollar Store

Not everything sold at dollar stores is a great bargain or a safe purchase. Here’s our list of products to avoid.

41 Things You Should Never Buy
41 Things You Should Never Buy

Some purchases are just plain dumb. Give yourself — and your budget — a break. Don’t spend money on this stuff.

View More Articles

View this page without ads

Help us produce more money-saving articles and videos by subscribing to a membership.

Get Started

Add a Comment

Our Policy: We welcome relevant and respectful comments in order to foster healthy and informative discussions. All other comments may be removed. Comments with links are automatically held for moderation.