When you are in the market for a new place to live, it helps to remember the golden rule of real estate: You're not just buying or renting a home -- you are also buying into and becoming a part of a neighborhood
As anyone who's moved a few times knows, not all neighborhoods are created equal. There is no such thing as the perfect neighborhood, because not all areas are going to be truly a perfect fit for everyone and their unique needs.
Although a cookie-cutter neighborhood isn't a reality, there are components common to ALL great neighborhoods. As you evaluate the best aspects of a prospective neighborhood, you'll want to match them to your needs at this point in your life.
A truly great neighborhood is one in sync with your current lifestyle. Both renters and homebuyers tend to gravitate to areas with similar demographics. Just as a fantastic suburban neighborhood in a gated community may not be right for a young single professional, a family with three small children would likely be miserable living in a small condo in a hip downtown neighborhood.
Pride in ownership
All great neighborhoods have this in common. Pride in ownership is obvious when the residents, whether renters or owners, maintain their homes and care about their neighborhood. Neighbors participate to connect and create local groups that bring the residents together for the betterment of the area.
Low crime rate
Low crime rates give a neighborhood a sense of ease and calm. As safety and security are everyone's concern, crime is a quick way to tell if a neighborhood is improving or not. You can usually spot a transitional and improving neighborhood by the improvement or decline in its crime rates.
An easy way to check this is to utilize Trulia"s Crime Maps, where you can see the types and frequency of crime in the area and determine if it's the right place for you.
For homeowners and renters with children, great schools top their list of what makes a great neighborhood. Trulia shows school ratings using data from Great Schools. Integrating the data into map views lets house hunters see which schools are highly rated and also read reviews from actual parents of students in that district. Not only are great schools important for families with children, they also make the surrounding neighborhoods more valuable and more sought after, keeping property values strong.
Outdoor activities abound
Being close to the outdoor adventures you love can sweeten the appeal of your neighborhood. Being superclose (or within a reasonable drive) to places to jog, sail, or pedal can keep you riding high about your home. Proximity and access to tennis courts and golf courses are also qualities that keep your neighborhood on par.
Stepping back in time
One thing I always look for in a neighborhood are tree-lined streets; the feel of an older, established neighborhood makes it truly great for me. There is something about an area with history that makes it very desirable.
New developments are wonderful and newly built homes are truly to die for, but I love the charm of older, established neighborhoods. These are usually very stable, with longtime residents and community support, which also help encourage safety and low crime rates.
Access to medical care
This is important for all residents, but especially for seniors and retirees looking to find that perfect place to retire and for families with young children. Being close enough to get to a hospital or doctor's office quickly is key for many people in various stages of their lives.
Lots of other families in the neighborhood are a real draw for buyers with children. There are more opportunities for children to play, socialize, and make lifelong friends. Carpooling groups and other children's programs are much more accessible when the neighborhood is overflowing with kiddos.
Close to public transportation
Easy access to public transportation is a fantastic plus for a neighborhood and an amenity for almost any lifestyle. From a commuting millennial to a retiree who wants to keep the car at home, public transit is a solid upgrade to any neighborhood.
Nearby shopping and restaurants
If you want to be part of the hustle and bustle (and don't want to cook dinner every night), having great restaurants, shopping, and markets in proximity is a must!
Nightlife and entertainment
Is there a nearby town center or downtown with movies, theaters, bars, and nightlife? This could be the one thing that makes your neighborhood come alive. This is a priority for anyone who is young and single, but everyone appreciates a neighborhood where the hot spots are within walking distance, or a short cab ride away.
Being able to leave the car keys at home and hit the pavement to walk to markets, shopping, restaurants, parks, and all the other amenities your neighborhood has to offer can alleviate a lot of road rage ... and make you fall even deeper in love with your neighborhood.
What do you love about your neighborhood?