Before you start hunting (or building) that dream home, you'll want to think about the traits that you're looking for in a neighborhood. You can change, remove and remodel a lot of things in a home, but you can't place it in a different location. Here are a few things to look for and think about in a neighborhood:
Proximity to Work
This is a big one. According to the latest U.S. Census, the average travel time to work in the United States is 25.4 minutes. If you're planning on staying in your current role for quite some time, proximity to work is especially important to think about. Be sure to research door-to-door travel time before you start looking at homes in a particular neighborhood. Google maps takes into account traffic patterns when they suggest a route. Try mapping the distance from one neighborhood to your work place during peak traffic times. A new study even indicates that longer commutes can lead to less happy individuals.
Both public and private schools can greatly affect the value of your future home. So although you may not have school-aged kids, the type of schools in your neighborhood will still influence your home's value. Be sure to do your research and find out what your district's like. Greatschools.org is a great website that allows users to explore top-rated school, find local information, talk "school" with local parents, and much more. Public School Review also offers some valuable tools to help you decide if a school district is right for you and features up to 25 years of historical data about the district.
These too can affect your home's value. Are there a lot of "For Rent" or "For Sale" signs in the neighborhood? This isn't necessarily a bad sign, but it can mean the neighborhood and your neighbors will be changing. If you're thinking about purchasing or building a more rural home, check out the zoning requirements. Although your potential home may be surrounded by empty lots now, if zoning allows, those lots may end up with homes on them. This could drastically alter your home's view and value.
Distance to Major Roads and Highways
A neighborhood's distance to major roads and highways can greatly influence the convenience of your new home. This is especially important to think about if you travel a lot for work or have friends or family in other area's of a city. The ease of accessibility can also influence your home's price. Owning a home near a major arterial road is generally means more appealing and convenient. On the other hand, being too close to a major street can equate to extra road noise, a greater amount of dust or smog in the air and a safety danger for those younger family members.
Activities and Amenities
Every neighborhood has a different culture and offers varying types - and amounts - of local activities and amenities. Do you like to have a lot of "buzz" around you with quite a bit going-on? Or would you prefer a quiet area with minimal activity and a more sleepy feel? Many neighborhoods have their own site, blog or Facebook page. Check those out and see if you can get a feel for the activities. Are they centered around families, late-night activities, live music? All neighborhoods have a unique vibe, so be sure you find one that aligns closely with your personal preference.