If you’re searching for a new home, you’ve probably heard people say “location is everything.” Where you live can impact almost every aspect of your life—your environment, the people around you, activities available, the amount of time you spend commuting, and much more. If you’d like to change something about your house you have many options—renovate, redecorate, buy new appliances. But there’s not much you can change about your location once you’ve bought your house, so it’s important to get it right.
However, this comes with the caveat that location is not everything. While searching for a new home, location must be balanced with two other important factors, price and quality. In this series we’re exploring these three factors, so be sure to take a look at the other articles.
Location: What to Look for while House Hunting
Unless you work from home or you’re planning to search for a new job once you buy your new house, one of the most important things to consider is what your commute will look like. A common pitfall for homebuyers is to move far away from work in order to buy a larger house without considering the impact this will have on their day-to-day living. If you work five days a week, and you can find a way to cut an hour off your commute each way, you can give yourself an extra ten hours of time every week!
Remember, though, that physical distance isn’t a good indicator of how long a commute will take, since traffic can vary widely by location. If you’re considering a particular home, a good strategy is to make a few practice runs during the time you will normally be commuting to find out how long it will take you in normal traffic. If you’re moving with a spouse or partner who works at a different location, have them try it, too.
Another key factor is the environment surrounding your home. Do you prefer to be close to nature, or do you love city living with all its amenities? Think about the activities you love and how your location will impact them—if you run or bike, are there good trails? If you have a dog, are there good places to walk? If you love going out at night, are there restaurants, bars, and clubs nearby? On the other hand, if you spend most of your time away from your home or you’re an indoors person, this might matter less.
There are more individualized situations to consider as well. For example, if you’re often out late at night by yourself, safety might be one of the most important factors in your decision. One way to assess this is to go visit the neighborhood at night and see what kind of vibe you get. You can also talk to residents and ask how they feel about the neighborhood. However, this might be less important to people who want the excitement of being part of an up-and-coming community—it’s all about your personal priorities.
If you have kids, you’ll obviously want to consider them as well. But remember, this goes for kids you might have in the future, too! People often end up staying in their home longer than they expect—they might fall in love with their home, put down roots in the neighborhood, or decide to delay moving in order to maximize selling price. So if this applies to you, consider what a child’s life in your neighborhood will be like. Do you see neighborhood children playing outside? Are there kid-friendly amenities nearby such as parks and playgrounds? Do you like the neighborhood schools? (Remember that your toddler now will be starting kindergarten in only a few years!) If your children are young, are there good daycare options nearby?
This is not to say if you have kids you don’t have choices. Some people want to live on the quintessential cul-de-sac in the suburbs, but others enjoy incorporating their child or children into an urban lifestyle. Increasingly, as young millennials marry and have kids, many up-and-coming neighborhoods are transforming into vibrant, family-friendly communities.
As you consider your preferences in terms of location, remember that your agent’s help is invaluable. Make sure to let them know what you’re looking for, and be specific. Agents can help by discussing what neighborhoods meet your priorities and budget. Often, they can suggest neighborhoods you might not have considered. And if you’re not sure what you want, let your agent know that, too. They do this for a living, and can help you figure out your priorities so they know what to show you.