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Choose a Location that Fits with Your Lifestyle
Your home is so much more than the physical structure that keeps you out of the elements. The surrounding community and neighborhood have a big effect on your quality of life.
When you buy a house, you should do your best to find a home in a location that fits well with your lifestyle. If you don't enjoy driving, you'll want to choose a home with access to public transportation or within walking distance of your favorite places. On the other hand, if you find an urban environment too noisy or chaotic, you'll want a house in a quieter area.
Consider other factors, like how far a house is from your workplace, proximity of schools, and whether schools provide buses or rely on private transportation.
Avoid High Crime Areas
Unfortunately, some neighborhoods are far more subject to criminal activity than others. You can get information on crime through websites like neighborhoodscout.com or simply doing a Google search on "high crime neighborhoods in _________."
You can also try talking with local residents. In larger cities, certain neighborhoods are widely known for higher crime rates. Most states also have online registries where you can find out if there are registered sex offenders living nearby.
Find the Best Schools
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The school district in which a house is located can be a very important factor. In fact, you'll notice that many real estate ads for homes in desirable school districts state the school district right up front.
If you don't know which school district a house is in, ask the homeowner or the local board of education. Don't assume that because a house is reasonably close to a school that it is part of that school's district. You can check websites rating community school systems based on several factors, including test scores, budgets, and student-teacher ratios.
Keep Insurance Rates Low
Your zip code influences how much you pay for homeowners and car insurance: a block or two can make a noticeable difference in the premiums you're required to pay. Fortunately, it's easy to get insurance quotes online, so you can compare two properties you're considering to see if there is a noticeable difference on what you'll pay for insurance.
Maximize Chances for Property Value Increase
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Every city has neighborhoods that are "hot," or where property values increase faster than other neighborhoods. While you may pay more to live in these desirable neighborhoods, you may also experience a greater increase in your property value if you buy a house there.
Likewise, in some areas, changes -- the closure of a major employer, for example -- brings down property values. You might find bargains in these areas, but you may have a harder time selling later on. In general, well-maintained roads and homes in an area indicate stable or rising property values.