No matter who you are – if you’re looking to buy a house to call “your home” for the next 5-10 years, it’s critical to walk the neighborhood that you want to live in.
Go eat in local restaurants or cafes. Walk and drive it. Visit the nearest library – and laundromat. Check out online reviews of the “highest rated” local businesses (google/yelp), and check the local websites for your potential new neighborhood. Peek into your new neighborhood(s) via NextDoor.com, Craigslist and AirBNB rental listings, or even local #hashtags for your future ‘hood and city.
Oh yes – there’s also the local corporate or “alt” newspaper to check out. The physical, paper ones. They still exist! Or search for “(neighborhood name) (town name) news.”
There are also websites like Trulia that show crime overlays, if you worry about break-ins. They used to show these prominently in the menu, but after Zillow bought them out, they hide crime heatmaps within individual house listings. Redfin shows school ratings from GreatSchools for each house listing. Sperling’s “Best Places to Live“ website presents various population and demographic data, plus job market stats.
How would I do it? Some of the above — but you can get a pretty solid feel for a neighborhood just by walking it and door-knocking your would-be neighbors. You can ask them how they like their street, what they like about the area, if they have any hot restaurant or realtor recommendations.
Realtors® are make money when they sell you a house so naturally they aren’t financially motivated to tell you the downsides or negatives of anything – but usually they will be pretty good about presenting the best stuff going on. Top agents keep a close read on the pulse of their “farm” area. Agents with integrity will tell you everything — in soft, reassuring tones. But do your own due diligence! A house purchase is a huge financial, mental, emotional commitment.
You can also (bonus tip!) ask your potential future neighbors if they know anybody looking to sell their house soon – perhaps to a new homeowner like yourself! You can then exchange info with your most open and friendly neighbors. They also might point out issues that you wouldn’t know of — like the water being bad or something weird like that. This is a real commentary about the neighborhood tap water I heard recently — directly from homeowners in Willow Glen and near Santana Row, in San Jose while door-knocking. We’re not in Flint, Michigan right? The neighbors abide by buying bigger, better water filters. What else can they do?
It may be smart to visit your neighborhood on different days of the week (work day vs weekend). You might also try checking it out at night vs during the day. The feel will be different!
Happy house hunting – and as always, please let us know when YOU are looking to buy or sell any piece of real estate in the San Francisco/San Jose Bay Area! We’ll be happy to help.