What factors should you consider when choosing where to buy a home?

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We all know that phrase used to determine value when it comes to real estate: “location, location, location.” But it’s ultimately a very personal decision when you are deciding where to live.  How can a house-hunter know what is the best location for them? And what makes one city or neighborhood a better choice than another?

Unfortunately, there isn’t one formula that works for every homebuyer. Here are a few of the characteristics that factor into choosing a where to look for your home sweet home:

  1. Neighborhood Amenities: The availability of shops, restaurants, parks, and other amenities can greatly affect the culture of any given city. Do you want to have shopping and dining nearby? Nightlife or entertainment within walking distance? You might prefer a downtown or mixed-use neighborhood.  If you’re looking for something quiet and tucked away with minimal traffic, and you don’t mind driving a bit to do shopping or go out, a residential suburban setting might be a better fit. Either way, consider what is nearby and what’s important to you.
  2. Types of housing – The Twin Cities has a diverse selection of home types, from historic Victorians to clean mid-century modern to 2.5 story walk-out basement homes. If you are looking at homeownership, you aren’t limited to single-family detached homes, either.  Many communities contain a mix of condominium homes, townhomes, and duplexes. If you’ve been dreaming about mowing a large lawn, you might want that 1-acre lot. But if maintenance isn’t your thing, a townhome can let you pass that responsibility on to the association. (for a fee, of course.)  If you have your heart set on a certain type of architecture, that may influence the neighborhood you choose.
  3. Education System: Even if you don’t have children (or don’t plan to) the school system is worth considering. Local school performance is tied closely to median home values and may affect appreciation. Nowadays, GreatSchools is the most popular website for rating schools, which does through a formula based on data from test scores. But scores aren’t the only measurement to consider. For these reasons, it is important to seriously research the schools serving the neighborhoods you are considering buying in to be sure they provide the type and quality of education you’d want for your children.
  4. Transportation: Access to transportation is another big financial factor to consider. Many suburban communities were designed around the assumption that every homeowner owned at least one car as their primary method of transportation. Owning and regularly using a car requires an additional financial investment beyond a mortgage, so making sure that you can make that commitment if you decide to buy a home in a suburb with no access to public transportation is key. Alternatively, a home near public transit may be more convenient, but it will probably be located in a busier section of any given city. The accessibility of sidewalks and bike trails can range widely from city to city, but they may able to provide alternative forms of transportation in some suburbs without access to buses or trains.

With all of these considerations, what is important to remember is that there is no one right answer to where you should start your search when buying a home. Every homebuyer brings their unique considerations to the table, informed by their background, friends, and family. Think about the benefits you are hoping to gain as a homeowner, and keep in mind that the city, neighborhood, or school district that may initially seem best on paper may or may not be the best fit for you.

Our homeownership advisors help future homebuyers consider these and other factors when embarking on their homeownership journey. Pre-purchase advising is affordable, supportive, and unbiased, and people who participate in homebuyer education are less likely to face foreclosure in the future.  Want to start off right? Contact us to get started.

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About the Author:

Photo of Russell Star-Lack

Russell Star-Lack

I believe that working to support access to affordable housing is the only way to address our history of housing discrimination and residential segregation. As the Storytelling VISTA, my primary role is to collect and promote the stories of the customers who NeighborWorks has assisted in the past as part of our outreach. I enjoy listening to music, playing guitar, and reading history in my spare time.

I believe that working to support access to affordable housing is the only way to address our history of housing discrimination and residential segregation. As the Storytelling VISTA, my primary role is to collect and promote the stories of the customers who NeighborWorks has assisted in the past as part of our outreach. I enjoy listening to music, playing guitar, and reading history in my spare time.

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