Isn’t it funny how things change once we have children? Our entire perspective shifts. Whereas in our twenties we were most likely footloose and fancy free now we’re “grown ups” with these little beings who monopolize our thoughts, priorities, our time and our hearts. We often can’t even remember life without them. Before mommy-hood took over we probably didn’t put too much effort into thinking about homes and neighborhoods and communities to live in. We were probably looking for something clean, safe and close to work. Now that mommy-hood is in full swing and we have little babies that we are responsible for there is a sudden shift in what is important.
From a MOM’s perspective what is most important when choosing a neighborhood for your family?
- Schools. Schools are always paramount when selecting the ideal neighborhood for your next home. Schools very heavily impact home values- even a district boundary on a single street can make a difference. Even if you don’t have children yet but are planning to down the road, selecting a neighborhood with excellent schools will pay off later when it comes time to sell your home and move up because living in an area with a much sought-after school system raises your property value. Also, even if you’re planning to put your children through private school you still want to buy within a highly rated school district to retain your home’s future value.
- Parks. We’re MOMS. We know the importance of parks! They need to be nearby and they need to be nice! Do we want to pack up kids in car seats every time they need to expel a little energy? Loading a stroller and walking to a park to meet up with friends and other neighborhood MOMS is ideal. Do you want to live next door or directly across the street from the park? Probably not. We know that sometimes at night parks can attract some people who may be doing some questionable things so living right next door might not suit us, but close enough to walk is nice. Also, take a look at the park and the equipment. Does it look well maintained? Is there shade and tables (for all those future birthday parties!) Is there any graffiti?
- Sports and Recreation. Will or do your littles play sports? Are the fields close? Will you have to drive far for all those Saturday games? Something to consider.
- MOMS Groups. Does your prospective town/community have a local MOMS group or playdate group to help with socialization (for you too!)?
- How far are you willing to commute? Are you willing to sacrifice family and free time for the traffic getting to and from work? How much time? Really look at that with a realistic perspective. Are there options for toll roads? Factor in the expense of that for the time saved (or possibly not saved).
- Think about what you don’t want in a neighborhood, too. If you can’t stand late-night noise, you’ll probably want to steer clear of the college area or an area with a lively bar scene. With little ones who already don’t sleep at night paying attention to what’s around the neighborhood and what noise could arise from that is important. Where is the nearest busy street? Can you hear it? At different times of day or all the time? What about airport or flight paths? Hospital and ambulances? Train tracks?
- Crime statistics: Always always always check this. There are many sites who can map the crime in a particular neighborhood by crime type. Go to CrimeMapper.com for example and enter an address.
- Are you a social butterfly? Do you like neighborhoods that plan their own events? Decorate and go all out for holidays? Do you want to live in “the” best Halloween candy neighborhood? Or do you like the more mellow neighborhoods where people do their own thing, some decorate some don’t and your neighborhood social hour consists of a wave from the garage? Which fits your family lifestyle?
- Remember your first impression. What do you notice first about the neighborhood? Do the streets have curb appeal? Are the houses well-maintained? You’ll want to feel good about where you call home, and impress buyers when you’re ready to move on.
- Visualize yourself in the neighborhood. Think of your daily routine. Is there space for the kids to play? Are there sidewalks to go on walks? Is the neighborhood on a steep hill where kids riding bikes could be difficult or hazardous? Where will you walk your dog or go jogging? You’ll enjoy the neighborhood more if it is easy to do the things your family enjoys.
- Observe the neighborhood at different times of the day. Driving through will help you get a snapshot of life in the community — good and bad. Do the roads turn into a parking lot after school or during rush hour? Are people using grills or decks in the evening? Are neighbors and kids socializing or do people keep to themselves? Are the streets well-lit at night? These visual clues can help you decide if you’ll fit in.
- Smells: Specifically, are there any? You can’t experience unpleasant smells on Zillow but they can certainly affect your decision to live in an area. What is nearby? Restaurants? Think of any smells that might come from that during operating hours. I lived nearby a shopping center that had a restaurant that specialized in Indian cuisine. Whether you enjoy curry or not you could smell their cuisine from the neighborhood.