Can you imagine moving into a home in southern California, waking up the following Monday to go to work, and sitting in traffic for 60 minutes to drive 12 miles? Or how about buying a property with a scenic view only to discover that a few months later that landscape is replaced by a new subdivision? Not to mention the year of construction outside your window. Did you notice how much available street parking there was on your block? Perfect for your 4 cars… until each one is broken into and you realize why everyone else in your neighborhood keeps their cars in their garages.
You’ve learned why it’s so important to build a real estate team before buying a home. A contractor, home inspector, and real estate appraiser can provide valuable opinions about the condition of the home. Now it’s time to learn about the importance of researching an area before buying a home. This includes the city, sub-market, community, neighborhood, and street that you’re about to reside in.
Here are some tips to help you research the area you are looking in:
- Visit the property during high traffic times to discover how backed-up the streets in your neighborhood become. Also check out the nearest freeway entrance for the same information. Determine what your daily commute will look like to and from work or your children’s schools. Sigalert.com is a valuable tool for viewing traffic patterns on southern California freeways.
- LA Crime Map (http://projects.latimes.com/mapping-la/crime/) is a database of Los Angeles County crime reports. The website is a wonderful tool for learning about the safety of a city, neighborhood, street, or even particular home or condominium. LA Crime Map uses data compiled from the Los Angeles Police Department and Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department to create maps and reports for the areas covered by these agencies.
- Pay attention to the proximity of your future home to hospitals. This detail could literally be a life saver.
- Another important thing to consider is the area schools. Buying a home near a school, even if you don’t have children, can be a valuable investment. Proximity to schools can add to the resale value of your home.
- Are you a frequent traveler for work or pleasure? Research nearby airports and how easy they are to reach. When you factor in the cost of travel and commute expenses, you might be able to afford a home in a better, more convenient neighborhood. Be careful here. While being close to an airport has benefits on travel days, being too close adds lots of noise and air pollution.
- Research the value of homes nearby homes. Never buy the most expensive home in the neighborhood. The principle of regression dictates that the lower priced homes in the neighborhood will pull down the price of the most expensive home in the neighborhood. The opposite is also true, more expensive homes pull up the prices of less expensive homes. Therefore, it does not make sense to stretch for a nicer home in the same neighborhood, rather stretch for a nicer neighborhood. Educate yourself about the gamut of home values, number of foreclosures, vacant homes, and rentals in the area. A great tool for this is research is Zillow.com
- Check with the local department of building and planning to see what types of permits have been pulled and issued for new development and construction. This will prevent you from moving next door to a construction site and might also steer you towards a part of town that will be rising in value due to the construction of a new shopping center. Do not assume that your broker will do this for you.
- Is there a Starbucks or Chick-Fil-A nearby? Major higher end franchises like these spend millions of dollars on market research to determine good places to open their restaurants or stores. This isn’t a guarantee, but chances are, if there are major higher end franchises like these in the area, it is probably a relatively good place to live.
- Search the Internet. What’s it like living in the area? If you’re lucky, you might find valuable articles like the ones below.
- Ask people in the community what it’s like living there. Talk to street cops, the Fed Ex delivery person, Mail Man, and local residents like your future neighbors. Police officers can be desensitized to crime and might instinctively tell you that it’s a decent place to live because they’ve seen worse. A good question to ask a local police officer is, “Would you let your family live here?” Talking with local folks is some of the best research you can do. The majority of these people will be honest with you if tell them you are considering moving to the area and ask for their advice.
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