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When you buy a home, you’re not just moving into the property itself. You’re also moving into a community.
While you may not be able to learn everything about your prospective neighbors during your home search, you can do your research and gather some great intel on the neighborhood to help better understand whether it’s a good fit for your family.
Here are five steps you can take to help ensure your dream home isn’t surrounded by nightmare neighbors:
1. Conduct some research on Nextdoor
Nextdoor is a social networking site for neighbors, and it can be used for all types of purposes, including finding a babysitter, spreading the word about a lost pet, informing your neighbors about a break-in, or organizing a block party.
Here’s the catch: The site is private and you do need to live in the neighborhood before joining that particular neighborhood community on Nextdoor.
However, there are public profiles for each neighborhood that you can still glean some useful information from.
For example, the public neighborhood profiles will tell you about the average age of residents; what percentage of them are homeowners; nearby bookshops, movie theaters, coffee shops and restaurants that are known favorites.
You can also see the discussion topics (not full posts, though) that are trending in the neighborhood, which could help you spot red flags if there seems to be a trend when it comes to things like noise complaints or political disputes.
Also, the public setting in Nextdoor allows you to see top neighborhood interests, so you know if you’ll be moving into a neighborhood that’s dog-friendly, values parks, or has residents who enjoy being a part of book clubs or hiking groups.
2. Read neighborhood guides in local magazines
Local magazines often run “top neighborhood” guides that are written by those who have a pulse on the locale.
Just as an example, 5280—a lifestyle magazine in Denver—has a comprehensive neighborhood guide that dives into the vibe of each city and neighborhood. It includes recommendations for restaurants, bars, and other forms of entertainment.
While you may not get dirt on your prospective next door neighbor through these features, you will be able to suss out the general vibe of areas where you’re looking to set down your roots.
You can also often find similar features in local business publications, newspapers, and lifestyle magazines.
3. Hire a real estate agent who knows the neighborhood inside and out
As you’re hiring a real estate agent, it’s recommended that you talk with multiple candidates to help figure out the best fit for you and your family.
After all, buying a home will likely be the biggest purchase of your life, and your trusty real estate agent will help see you through that transaction.
When you have early conversations with agents, ask them what neighborhoods they consider themselves to be experts on and why.
How many recent transactions have they had in the neighborhoods you’re interested in looking at? Can they tell you nuanced details, like whether there’s a sense of community, what issues are hot with the HOA, and whether the neighborhood is considered safe?
These are important considerations for your home search.
4. Check out the city council meeting notes
These days, most city governments publish the city council’s upcoming agendas and meeting minutes online.
These documents can be a goldmine of information about a prospective neighborhood that you’re moving into.
Because the documents can be lengthy, you can use the “Find command” (i.e. Control+F or Command+F on a Mac) to look for mentions of your prospective neighborhood or street to see whether there are any complaints coming forward during public comment or council discussions.
5. Talk to potential neighbors
When you go to an open house or head back to the home for a second tour, it may be a great idea to chat up any prospective neighbors.
What do they love about the neighborhood? Is there anything they wish they knew before moving in? How would they describe the neighborhood?
Conversations with neighbors will reveal nuances that you may not know unless you’ve actually lived in the neighborhood for a little while—like whether snowplows are reliable during winter or there’s a house on the street that’s used for Airbnb rentals and tends to get noisy.
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