How to choose a new neighborhood when home buying

How to Tell If You’ve Outgrown Your Neighborhood—and Where to Go Next

There comes a turning point in every renter’s life, where that neighborhood you loved when you moved in just doesn’t feel right anymore. It happens—sometimes the community surrounding your home changes, and isn’t quite as sweet as when you first moved in. But more often than not, as life goes on, careers advance, families grow, and finances improve, it’s less about the neighborhood transforming, and more about your own priorities shifting for what you want out of an area.

While you may have once reveled in the fact that your neighborhood boasted plenty of hotspots just outside your front door, you may now yearn for a quieter, more family-focused locale so that you can start your own. Better yet, as your career has blossomed—along with your salary—it may be time to upgrade to a larger place with more of your “wish-list” items in an area, where you’ll be surrounded by up-and-comers just like you. After all, home buying isn’t just about falling in love with a house, securing a mortgage, and making that square footage your own; it’s also about finding the perfect neighborhood that works for you today and tomorrow.

If it’s time to assess whether you’ve outgrown your neighborhood, here are the questions to ask yourself:

“Does it still work for my professional goals?”

Commuting distance to your job always plays a major role in where you choose to live, but what about the proverbial distance you’ve clocked in your career? If you’ve been on the upward end of a sweet career trajectory—you’ve made partner at your law firm, for example—that neighborhood that was once out of reach may no longer stretch your budget, thanks to newfound financial security.

If you’ve determined that your situation has, in fact, changed for the best—say you’ve refinanced your student loans and you have more room to save, or you’ve moved into a higher bracket due to some well-deserved salary increases—it’s time to reassess. So, review your budget or create a new one, and you can start taking a look at new neighborhoods that are now within reach.

Related: How to Choose the Best Neighborhood When Buying a Home

“Does it fit my growing family’s needs?”

If growing your family is no longer a “one day” thing but rather a “this may happen very, very soon” scenario, the reputations of neighborhood schools will start mattering to you. And although buyers paid nearly $50 more per square foot for homes in highly-rated school districts, according to Redfin, the additional expenditure touts excellent benefits even beyond the books in the form of boosted real estate property values.

Indeed, if your future family is on your mind, also consider the proximity of local parks, libraries, and kid-friendly recreational centers. You could even take a look at the average age of people in the neighborhood by reviewing a free neighborhood demographic report at a site like Movoto to ensure a new area has play date potential.

“Is it friendly to home renovations?”

Even if you do want to buy a home in the area you’re currently living, you’ll want to check if it has staying power. If you want to spring for a charming fixer-upper that will require a renovation plan, or are considering remodel upgrades you’d like to make in the future, keep in mind that not all neighborhoods may be open to that.

Since plenty of major metro areas have strict zoning laws when it comes to housing, you’ll want to look into your neighborhood zoning laws by checking the town or city’s planning department website. For example, in certain areas, you may not be able to build in any way that can block another neighbor’s view, so check to ensure that what you envision can be achieved when the time is right.

“Does it fit my lifestyle, and how my lifestyle has changed since I moved here?”

Each and every aspect of your lifestyle is unique to you, and your lifestyle has changed over time. Maybe you were into the bar scene a few years ago, but now you’re more of a hiker and want to be near trails. Or perhaps you’re in an area where none of the neighbors talk to each other, and you want to be somewhere you can actually get to know them. Whatever it may be, as you grow older and your habits shift, your neighborhood may not be serving you in the same way as it did before.

Recommended: Should You Use Your Roth IRA to Buy Your First Home?

Time to explore other options

If you’ve gone through and realized, Whoa, it’s truly time for a move, now comes the fun part: checking out new neighborhoods. You’ll know how to get a feel for the neighborhood—by walking around during the day and at night, shopping the stores, frequenting restaurants, and mingling with the locals.

But to make sure the neighborhood checks all your boxes, look at sites like City Data and Home Facts, which will give you the scoop on everything from an area’s crime stats and home values to weather patterns and more. For a more local vibe, look up the area on social media platforms like Instagram and Next Door to see what residents love about it and read candid insights.

Make the big move—the money move

So, that neighborhood you used to love may no longer be right for you, but you’re moving on to bigger, better things. Choosing the perfect neighborhood for your next stage in life is possible. Once you’ve done your due diligence, you’ll be better equipped to identify what you want now and for the future.

In the meantime, start preparing financially for your upgrade: Create a master savings plan, pay down student loan debt and credit card debt, and boost your credit score. The reality of a new neighborhood—and new home—is closer than you think.

Time to make a move to a new neighborhood? Get in the know about mortgage loans with SoFi so you’re prepared to buy when you find your dream home.


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