Clues for neighbourhood sleuthing
We are always looking for clues in real estate. Clues about motivation, clues about the condition of the house and clues about the neighbourhood. Those who know me and those who read this blog know that I think that the most important thing about buying a home starts with choosing the right neighbourhood. And, like detectives on a case know, evidence and information reveals itself. We just have to know where to look.
Here are some clues you can pick up, some threads you can pull on to see what evidence is uncovered:
7 easy clues to spot great or not so good neighbourhoods
Clue #1: Many homes on the market
New neighbourhoods and condo buildings often have a lot of houses and units respectively on the market. That’s not unusual. But what if it is an older neighbourhood or building? What’s going on? What do they know that you don’t? When you see lots of homes on the market on the same street, neighbourhood, condo complex or building, you have to find our why.
Clue #2: School enrolment is shrinking
Growth and expansion are normally good things for real estate values. A local school with shrinking enrolment may indicate a demographic shift or a declining neighbourhood. What’s going on here?
Clue #3 Living next to the industrial complex
Traffic, noise, and air pollution caused by commercial, industrial and retail establishments nearby are clues that this is not your best choice for your neighbourhood selection. Keep your eyes open for car dealerships, auto body shops, factories, gas stations, and anything else big, heavily trafficked and potentially noisy that takes away from the peaceful neighbourhood environment.
Clue #4 Empty shops
Decreased economic activity in a neighbourhood sometimes shows itself in the form of emptiness. When you see a lot of empty storefronts, a lot of places for sale or for rent it might be an indication of a declining neighbourhood or a demographic shift.
Also, what kind of retail is there? For most people, a grocery store is a much more useful retailer than a tattoo shop.
Clue #5 Restrictive covenants
Some neighbourhoods have associations that you have to join and pay ~$400/year for the pool and tennis courts that maybe you will never use.
Some townhouse complexes will not allow you to park your commercial van in the driveway — bad news if you are a plumber or an electrician. Other neighbourhoods will not allow boats and RVs in the driveways.
Clue #6 Congestion
Builders and developers are putting homes closer and closer together. Gone are the days of 50 and 60 foot lot frontages. This means both less street parking and more congestion. Some neighbourhoods are packed so tight with parked cars that traffic, pedestrians and bicycles have a hard time getting anywhere.
Clue #7 Home and yard maintenance
A great clue to a great neighbourhood is the condition of the homes and yards in the neighbourhood. When you are driving around pay special attention to the environment, including the cars in the driveway, abandoned shopping carts, garbage and recycle bins days after garbage day…
As you can see, the clues are there, you just have to know where to look. Of course, local real estate agents know which neighbourhoods are best for you.
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