Finding a new home is hard. You have to balance your wish list — bay windows, a breakfast nook, and beautiful mahogany built-ins for your personal library — with your budget and desired location. But when you manage to find that rare, affordable combination of what you’re looking for, you still aren’t out of the woods. Your home cannot escape or transcend its neighborhood, along with all of its regulations, establishments, and fellow residents. When you pull up to your potential home, chances are you’ll already be glancing up and down the street to gauge how well-maintained the surrounding homes are and whether this is a street on which you can envision a peaceful home life. But that’s not the only thing to consider about your new neighborhood.
1. Property Taxes
As they say, nothing is certain except for death and taxes. There’s no escaping the impact of the local tax code, so you’re going to want to familiarize yourself with the rates as well as what they include. By charging separate fees for trash pickup and sewer service, some municipalities appear to have exceptionally low taxes, when in reality, residents end up paying about the same.
2. School Districts
Even if this doesn’t directly apply to you by way of children, you’re still going to want to know which school district you live in for the above reason. You always need your school district code to complete your taxes. And if you have children, or think you might soon, what district you’re in will affect a lot more than paperwork. Sites like Niche K12 offer testing statistics, user reviews, and contact information for hundreds of thousands of schools nationwide — public, private, and charter. A tour of the school will also give you great insight into what your child’s environment could be.
3. Green Spaces
Some people are content to stay within the confines of their lawn, but others get the need for a little local adventure from time to time. Nearby state, county, or city parks provide health benefits and recreational opportunities beyond what your backyard can offer you. In fact, studies show that adventures in nature are linked to lower blood pressure, reduced obesity rates, and mitigated pollution effects. If you’re one of those people that likes to break free, and break out the bike, from time to time, see how far your potential home is from bike paths and parks, as well as seeing what amenities the parks offer, such as tennis courts, docks, or grills.
Everyone wants the freedom to go for an evening walk without worry or feel secure, even if they forget to lock the front door at night. To check up on the crime rate in your potential neighborhood before you sign up for a decade or more of living there, read the local police blogs or go on CrimeReports.com to see a map of offenses and trends — if crime is relatively low but has been ramping up for a few years, that doesn’t bode well for your future. If you have young children, FamilyWatchdog.us provides maps and details of nearby sex offenders. Drive around wide radius of the house in question to get a feel for the surrounding area — as little as a few streets can separate a safer neighborhood from a more dangerous one, and it’s best to know where those boundaries are.
5. Natural Phenomena
Surely, you won’t be caught off guard in a hurricane or blizzard — those meteorological phenomena have well-established zones. But floodplains can be a bit more subtle. Flooding is huge for homeowners for many reasons: It lowers the property’s value, destroys belongings, and is not typically covered by homeowner’s insurance. Flood protection is a very expensive separate policy that you’ll absolutely want if you need it, but if you never do, it’s a lot of money down the drain. To check your property, visit FEMA’s Flood Map Service Center or FloodSmart.gov to see what your insurance bill might look like.
Guest blogger, Sam Radbil is a contributing member of the marketing and communications team at ABODO, an online apartment marketplace. ABODO Denver apartments was founded in 2013 in Madison, Wisconsin. And in just three years, the company has grown to more than 30 employees, raised over $8M in outside funding and helps more than half a million renters find a new home each month.