Location is something I’ve touched on in a previous post but is definitely worthy of a separate discussion. Here are some areas to consider:
Neighborhood characteristics – This is a broader topic and can encompass a lot of categories. A Home Owner’s Association in a neighborhood can have large impacts on the elevations of the homes by regulating what home owners can and cannot do. It is great because it holds everyone to the same standards but could also be difficult if you are looking to do a remodel or build. In terms of elevations, for me, big trees were a must and became a HUGE selling point to the lot we bought. I wanted a big tree in our yard and also tree lined streets.
Other items that often can go unnoticed but can affect the characteristics of the neighborhood are sidewalks and mailboxes. I actually hadn’t paid much attention to either before we bought our lot. Our street doesn’t have sidewalks so we will have to run/ bike in the streets and one day figure out what to do about kids learning to ride their bikes/ play. We also don’t have mailboxes by the street but on the houses. For me, this was a plus as I always forget to check the mail. With it right next to my front door, I’m much more likely to remember.
Schools – Even if you don’t have kids yourself or aren’t planning to for a few years, your local schools should be highly considered as they can have a large effect on re-sale value. It is important to consider the schools at all levels from elementary to high school and review their ratings. For us, all of the areas that we had narrowed down our search to were within the same high school district. At that point, we started looking more closely at elementary and middle schools. Middle schools, like high schools, draw students from a larger area, so a few of the areas had the same middle school. After diving into elementary schools deeper, we narrowed it down to two schools so it helped reduce our search area.
Property values – If you are considering doing a large renovation, addition or building a custom home, it’s extremely important to understand the value of the properties in your neighborhood. It’s like they always say, you never want to be the most expensive house on the block. This is true especially when you are getting an appraisal done. During that process, the appraiser looks for comparable homes in the area and if there is nothing, you may have a harder time justifying the estimate. Your local property appraiser’s website is a great resource to look into this more and see recent sales. Always remember, the neighborhood needs to be able to support and provide comparable home values for where you estimate your new home value will be.
Proximity – Being close to local area shops, restaurants, and grocery stores is very convenient. Living in Florida where people drive everywhere, it’s not as important, but in other areas of the country, a close proximity to transit is also important. I do most of my grocery shopping at Publix, so we are within 2 miles of a few different ones. We are also within 0.5 miles of a YMCA, 1.5 miles from an area hospital and fire station, and 2.5 miles of some of our favorite restaurants in town (on Park Ave in Winter Park).
Other considerations – Aside from knowing if there are natural gas lines on your street, other items to consider include sewer versus septic and local flood zones. If you have sewer, you will have a monthly charge on your utility bill. If you have septic, you will have preventative maintenance and the occasional pumping to deal with. If you are in a local flood zone, if may be more difficult or costly to get home owners insurance. You can find more out about your areas flood zones on FEMA’s website or your local water district’s site.
When you are searching, it is important to use reliable sources. Realtor.com and Redfin were two search engines we found to be the most reliable. They are updated based on the MLS listings and are up to date. Other sites may list a home for sale even after it’s been off the market. For example, we closed on our lot in mid-April but it wasn’t until mid-May, a month later, that another popular website said our house was sold. If someone was relying on that other website, you could be wasting your time searching and looking at houses that are no longer available. We used a realtor as well and it was ultimately through one of the searches she set up for us that we found our lot.
We did a lot of research into the areas we considered, including driving around the neighborhood at various times of day to see the level of activity going on. We even looked to see how many kids would be outside playing after school or how many families had Adirondack chairs in their front yards. It is a big investment and definitely something worth taking the time and doing the research!