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How to inspect your future neighborhood

Real Estate » How To Inspect Your Future Neighborhood

How to inspect your future neighborhood
How to inspect your future neighborhood © Karamysh/

A Russian proverb goes: "Don't buy the house, buy the neighborhood."

Perhaps the most frequently shirked due-diligence duty by homebuyers is a thorough screening of the prospective neighborhood -- and of the neighbors. While buyers spend countless resources on inspections, radon tests, surveys and appraisals, they too often settle for just a cursory examination of the block that's destined to become their habitat.

There's no comparable research in the United States, but a study by Halifax Home Insurance Co. in Britain said 360,000 Brits moved due to bad neighbors in 2010 -- nearly 1 in 10. The most common complaints were aggressive behavior, excessive noise and unkempt properties.

There's no one-size-fits-all strategy to screening neighborhoods. "Everyone has different things that are important to them," says Sarah Davis, a broker with Partners Realty of California in San Diego. "A yappy dog may really bother one person and another not much at all."

With that caution flag unfurled, we give buyers five "musts" designed to help them answer the question: "How do I inspect a neighborhood?"

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When you're in the market to buy a home, don't make the mistake of looking only at houses. The neighborhood and the neighbors are part of the deal. One study in Britain found that nearly 1 out of 10 people moved because of bad neighbors, who were often noisy, sloppy or generally obnoxious.

When you're house-shopping, you need to inspect your future neighborhood. Start by doing a criminal search, to look at crime rates and whether any sex offenders will be living nearby.

Case the neighborhood at different times of day, keeping your eyes and ears open for rowdy people, dogs that bark nonstop and lots of homes that are for sale or appear to be in foreclosure.

Do some homework on the area schools, using online resources such as the website of the National Center for Education Statistics.

And take a broader view, taking into consideration whether empty lots near your new home could one day become the address for something like a fast-food restaurant, with accompanying traffic and noise.



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