Editor’s note: This is a transcript of the audio file.

If you’re not careful, your dream house could become a horror, and it would have nothing to do with the house. I’m Steve Pounds with Bankrate.com’s Personal Finance Minute.

Before you buy that idyllic home, do plenty of area research. Location has moved to the top of buyers’ checklists, and for good reason.

Today buyers are becoming increasingly wary of a widening array of neighborhood concerns like walkability, compatible age of neighbors, as well as any presence of a sex offender. Still, the No. 1 worry remains schools.

To avoid buying into a nightmare neighborhood, walk through the local school and check sex-offender lists to see if any live nearby. Call the city planning office to determine how vacant land can be used and what roads are in the works. Depending on your family makeup, the numbers of kids on your street could be a factor.

Listen for highway or factory noise, and take a whiff while you’re at it. Are you downwind from a dumpster or landfill?

Finally, make a night visit to find out if there are frequent parties, barking dogs or garage-band rehearsals. Now … for more real estate tips, go to Bankrate.com. I’m Steve Pounds.