- Property values: Have property values increased over the last ten years? What are the taxes, and how have they changed over time? Have you considered neighborhoods on the edge of hot areas, or just a bit farther out that show promise for increasing in value over the next ten years?
- Schools: Those with kids or planning to have kids often choose schools before choosing a house. Even if you think you are going to send your children to private school, it's prudent to have a local option you trust in case your circumstances change and also because of the boost in resale value a good school gives to houses in the neighborhood.
- Crime: Go to the local police precinct and ask for crime statistics for the area. Check alleyways or backs of buildings for graffiti that might indicate gang presence. Do the homes have bars on the windows? Okay, that's a sign.
- Services: How far is it to the hospital? What mass transportation options are there? Are there parks and recreational facilities nearby? Where do you go for groceries, gas, or religious services? What are the utility rates in the area?
- Traffic: What's the traffic flow in the area? A pretty suburban neighborhood could have unbearably clogged arteries during not only rush hour but school drop-off and pick-up times as well. Are there alternate routes around town, and to major highways? How long would your commute be? Don't just measure distance--measure time at the actual times of day that you would be commuting.
- Future growth: Find out what you can about plans for future construction. What is that empty lot zoned for? How about the beautiful woods behind the neighborhood you love so much? Will you still love that neighborhood when the new shopping mall goes in and your neighborhood faces the loading docks? If you're looking in a growing area, how will the increased demand for schools, roads and other services be provided?
- How will this growth affect taxes and traffic\Ambiance: Drive around the area and really observe what you see. What's the noise level? How friendly do people seem? What's the standard of upkeep of the majority of the properties you pass? Do you see people walking dogs, jogging, or riding bikes? Go into stores. Get into conversations with the locals. Ask what they like about living there. Do some internet or library research to find out what you can about the community and any top news stories from the last few years. And ultimately, make an informed decision that makes you feel at home.
Winter has officially arrived, and with it, the season of firefighters working overtime....