Don’t just find the perfect house, find the perfect neighborhood!

First narrow down the area. Sometimes people have trouble choosing from neighborhoods in different cities, so figure out first which city is more convenient. Here’s a game to get it started: a fill-in-the-blank.

If I lived (at this address), then how far away would I be from (my child’s school district, my job, my extended family)?

Most people move because they want to be close to their children’s school district, their own jobs, or their extended family. Access to public transportation, parks, local restaurants, and downtown areas are also factors in this game. Pinpoint your priorities and try to fulfill that wish list as much as you can.

Next, think about safety. Once you pick out a prospective neighborhood or two, drive around the area at night to see how safe and comfortable you feel. Because so many showings happen during the day, homeowners often forget that crime, noisy neighbors, and other disturbances happen more often throughout the night. There are also helpful online resources that should be able to tell you the crime rates in that neighborhood.

Whether you know it or not, when you buy into a house, you buy into the neighbors. And how does your house look compared to theirs? If you see your future neighborhood keeping the area clean, their lawns manicured, and their houses updated, it means the value of your new house has the potential to go up in the future when you’re ready to sell again! As a bonus, if you’re a fan of Do-It-Yourself projects, it’s likely you’ll fit right in.

It’s not just the neighbors, check the local businesses, too. These can also affect the value of your house both now and in future years. Dive bars, payday loan offices, and pawn shops generally bring the value down.

Finally, don’t be afraid to talk to the people living there! Make sure you know exactly what you’re getting into before you sign papers or make any kind of commitment.