How to Test-Drive Your New Neighborhood When Shopping for Your Next Home

aerial view of suburban homes and green trees

There’s a lot more to a new home than the house itself. 

When shopping for homes for sale, prospective buyers need to look at all of the details, both big and small. Examining a listing requires buyers to zoom in on the property while also zooming out to look at the surrounding community. After all, they go hand in hand to establish the lifestyle experience that goes along with moving into your next home.

Because of this, you need to get a feel for the entire community before moving forward with purchasing your new home. Important questions arise when you begin to factor the surrounding area into the equation. Where are the schools located? What transportation is available? How long of a commute is it for work? What amenities are nearby? The list goes on…

Clearly, where your home is located can sometimes be a bigger concern than the home itself. This is why most homebuyers shop for available homes for sale based on the market they’d like to live in. Remember that old saying, “location, location, location” – well, it’s making a comeback for anyone approaching their next home purchase.

In this guide, we’re going beyond the building, helping you learn exactly what characteristics to look for in your new community.

5 Ways to Get to Know a Neighborhood

Live Like a Local

If you’re curious about what the day-to-day experience is like in a neighborhood, give the area a whirl by living like a local. Head into the community and spend a day exploring. Drive around, walk through town, grab a coffee from a nearby cafe, and spend time doing the things you might do if you lived there. If you get the chance, talk to some locals and ask any questions you may have about life in town. 

Play Out a ‘Normal Day’

If you’re going to test-drive anything, you should start with the commute. 

If a normal morning will include dropping the kids off at school before driving to work, give it a test-run. Drive to the listing address and run the course, stopping at school and going to work. You’ll be able to see how long it takes and what the traffic patterns are like. Reverse the same course at the end of the day to get the full experience. 

Invite Your Friends and Loved Ones

Getting feedback from multiple perspectives can help you form a more balanced outlook on a possible community. 

Consulting your family is important because they’ll be living there, too. You might want to take your kids to the local park or drive by their school, all the while asking what they think. Inviting friends out to lunch at the local cafe can give everyone a chance to share their feelings and talk about the ups and downs. Go for drives with family members to get their perspectives, too. 

Explore the Shopping, Dining, and Nightlife 

If you love shopping, eating out, and hitting the nightlife scene, spend a day in the metropolitan sector of your community. Walk around the local shops and restaurants to get a feel for what’s what in this new location. 

Drive Around Without a Destination

Sometimes, simply driving around can lead you to discover things that aren’t even listed on the web. Maybe it’s beautiful greenery, a small hidden park, or a scenic outlook – you never know what surprises you’ll stumble upon. Spend some free time driving around and see what happens. 

3 Socially-Distant Exploration Options 

Not all neighborhood exploration needs to happen in person. In fact, there are many ways to learn more about a community without leaving the comfort of your home. Sit back, relax, and stay safe with these 3 remote strategies. 

Hit the Web 

Sometimes, you can learn more about a prospective neighborhood by hitting the web than you can by spending time there in-person. Go beyond what meets the eye by exploring the hard data about an area. 

The internet is filled with incredibly useful information about neighborhoods and communities all over the country. Crime rates, population demographics, economic details, and school information can all be found online. Websites like Livability are helpful places to kick off the search. 

See What Social Media Has to Say 

Social media is another great resource for learning about a community. Not only will this be a point of contact between you and the people that live there, but it can also go beyond what neighborhood highlights can explain by sharing real-life experiences. You’ll also learn more about the collective personality of the people who live there.

Social media outlets are teeming with information about neighborhoods, so don’t forget to reference this valuable tool. Forums on Facebook, Twitter, and NextDoor are all great resources to check out. Look up groups, hashtags, and recent posts to dig deeper into these insights. 

Look at Maps and Street View

If you want to learn more about accessibility and proximity, online maps can be even better than driving around. Typing a listing’s address into Google Maps can instantly give you an idea of where you would be and what you’d be surrounded by. You can also find out how far away the home is to your workplace, explore prospective commutes, and see what amenities are in the area. 

To get a more in-depth look at the neighborhood, use the Street View feature to take a virtual tour of the area. You can get a close-up view of just about everything in town.

Universal Home Buying Tips 

Now you know a few ways to get a greater understanding of a neighborhood, but the journey towards a successful home purchase doesn’t end there. Be sure to ask yourself these key 3 questions when buying a house. 

What Does My Checklist Look Like?

Knowing what you want before you start searching makes shopping easier. Instead of walking in blind, form an idea of your wants, needs, and non-negotiables before you even hit the market. Keeping the needs of your household in mind, create a prioritized list of features so you can easily narrow down potential homes.

Every buyer is different, so don’t be afraid to make the process as unique as you are. 

What Area Do I Love? 

You don’t need to start the house hunt looking for listings and then exploring the neighborhood. Instead, you can reverse the order and save yourself time and energy. There’s no point in looking at ten houses in one area only to find out that the neighborhood isn’t meeting your criteria. 

Explore various neighborhoods in an area you already like first. Once you find a few good matches, run a property search in those areas. If you find something you like, you can move forward with confidence since you know the neighborhood delivers your wants and needs. 

What About the Future?

Buying a home isn’t just about the ‘right now’ moment. After you move into your new home, you’ll likely be there for years. As such, your life will profoundly change within that period. If you’ve moved into a home that can only support things as they are at the time of purchase, you’re inviting the possibility of a necessary relocation.

New additions to the family, a change in profession, or any other unexpected twist or turn may suddenly change your circumstances and thus change what you need in a home and neighborhood. While we can’t plan for everything, it’s wise to consider what changes may arise in the next 10 years and fit them into your home shopping criteria. 

Find Your Perfect Match

If you’re ready to start browsing homes for sale in your area, click here to explore HomeFinder’s listing portal. For more home buying tips and real estate insights, check out our specialty articles.