Lookie loos, prospective buyers and real estate professionals all enjoy exploring available homes in all shapes and sizes, both near and far. We delight in fantasizing and dreaming big. When it is time to get serious and purchase a property, not all home sizes and locations will meet our design aesthetic, personal needs, or budget. I am often asked by clients “How do I choose where to live if I do not know the area?”
These clients most commonly have been visiting open houses just because they were attracted to the online photos. It does not matter that the home does not meet their budget or other priorities. Although a real estate sales agent provides guidance on an abundance of information on a home, often time clients are not aware that the Fair Housing laws prevent agents from speaking about neighborhood demographics. Agents are not allowed by law to relay information that could be considered “steering” a client in the direction or away from a certain property in a discriminatory way. So how does one choose?
Most often, one will ask neighbors, co-workers, friends, family, or a random person met at the coffee shop. All of these people will freely provide you advice, but they are influenced by their own wants, desires, and in some cases, have ulterior motives to have you move next to them or where they want to be. It is extremely critical for you to determine what is essential to you in choosing a location and home. Even if other people are living with you and are involved in the home selection process, each person should individually derive what is important to them.
So, what steps should the home selection committee take to identify the ideal location?
• Step 1: Review your finances and derive a budget in consultation with your accountant, lender, and real estate agent.
• Step 2: Derive a list of your “wants” and prioritize them: 1. Safety, 2. Schools, 3. Distance to work, 4.Taxes, 5. Restaurants, 6. Parks, 7. Shopping, 8. Entertainment, 9. Transportation and 10. Other Services
• Step 3: Derive a list of all the areas you are interested in with a “Yes” and “No” selection option.
• Step 4: Gather official reports to consult: 1.Crime report, 2. School report, 3. Local tax information, 4.Train and bus station maps, including if applicable, transportation means for schools or other needs, 5.Lists and directions to local restaurants and stores, 6. Maps detailing parks and other recreational activities or needs.
• Step 5: Utilize reports to analyze the data and begin selecting “Yes” and “No” for each area on your list.
• Step 6: Visit the areas that you have selected “Yes” and test out the transportation, eat at a local establishment and visit places of importance to you. What’s important to you will drive the location selection process and your happiness. If you are a theater enthusiast, perhaps you should consider Times Square. If you are an avid swimmer, there should be a pool close by. If you are a musician there should be a place for you to jam. If you have other special needs, they should be accessible to you. If you come home late from work, you should feel safe and happy when entering your new home.
Overall, choosing the correct state, city, town or block is the first step in the home ownership process and most often the most difficult. Purchasing a home is an emotional and taxing process. That is why it is important to choose a real estate agent, a trusted advisor to listen to your needs, and help you clearly identify what lifestyle attributes are most important to you, so you may find your dream home.