Culture: Is there a neighborhood association? If so, is that what you want? Is it overly strict? There will likely be dues to pay and some restrictions on roofing, street parking, house color, landscaping or future additions you might plan. (Congratulations on your new triplets! Now hit the road.) The trade-offs are usually better home maintenance, code compliance and a better sense of neighborhood unity and security. Also consider if the families on the block are reasonably consistent with your demographic and age groups. Will your kids have built-in friends?
Noise pollution: "Ba-boom!" That's the recurring sound of the bass in the stereo systems of tricked-out cars that magically crank up when you're approaching REM sleep -- or is it the neighborhood metal band? Are there frequent late-night parties or chained barking dogs left out all night in the neighborhood? Is there a train whistle that will wake you up nightly? Chat up a few older neighbors and get the real story.
Of course, hanging around a neighborhood at all hours could get you mistaken for a prowler or other unsavory element. Taking walks around the block and cruising through the neighborhood briefly at different hours will draw less attention.
There are other situations to watch out for. "A lot of short sales and foreclosure activity in an area tend to diminish value," Sullivan says. If you're buying into that neighborhood, you may think it's great because of the low price. But if you want to sell later, you may find the overall value of the area has taken a major hit.
Additionally, before settling on a community, check out its economic vitality, relocation specialists advise. When considering a job offer in another city, always consider what recourse or fallback you have if that job disappears, as jobs are wont to do these days. Go online to search the business archives of the daily newspaper or local business journal, paying close attention to real estate and jobs numbers and any pressing community economic or infrastructural issues.
Jorgensen points out that the gravity of quality-of-life issues and priorities vary greatly from buyer to buyer. "Remember that every neighborhood is likely to have some kind of issue," he says.