Why is location so important in your choice of where to buy a home? It’s pretty obvious that you could afford to buy a much bigger house with a much bigger yard in a less expensive community. Why then do so many buyers opt to purchase a smaller property in a more affluent or more convenient town? Because for these buyers, location and lifestyle may be somewhat synonymous.
There are a few rules of thumb to remember about particular neighborhoods. In general, urban areas, other than the posh brownstone neighborhoods of Boston proper, tend to be more affordable places to live. But do you want to live on a main road in a city with heavy traffic and a high crime rate?
Rural communities with few municipal services, commuter options and in-town businesses, may be another choice for the budget-minded. But again, will you be able to resell your home for a profit somewhere down the road when green grass and pastures lose their allure?
Here is a list of factors to consider when deciding on a location in which to plant your roots:
• Crime statistics – If you want to feel safe in your neighborhood, choose a house in a city or town that has a low crime rate. Scour the police records and read the local papers to see if you’d feel comfortable leaving your door unlocked or coming home alone at night.
• Commuter options – If you commute to Boston or any other big city, how long do you want your daily trips to and from work to be? Is there an AMTRAK station or an MBTA stop in your town or will you be dealing with rush hour traffic and ever-rising gasoline costs. If you must drive, how far is your neighborhood from a major highway? Taking backroads to the office can be scenic but not very practical in the long haul.
• The Schools – Families with young children need to know how the public schools in their prospective community measure up to those in other parts of the region and the state. Are the students performing well on their standardized assessment tests compared to those in other areas you’re considering? What is the ratio of students to teachers? How much does the town spend on each student in the public school system? Ask your Realtor for statistics on specific communities, and then decide where you want the yellow buses to pick up your children. Bear in mind that houses located in cities or towns with high ranking school systems tend to be valued higher than those in other areas.
• Amenities – Some homeowners are content to sit on their front porches with a good book in the evenings, and are willing to travel to another town to see a movie or eat at a fine restaurant once in awhile. But If this doesn’t sound like your lifestyle, you will want to find a home in a community that offers shopping, major supermarkets, dining options and other amenities of modern living.
• Beaches – Waterfront or even “near the water” living is not for everyone, but if you go to the beach a lot in the summers, living near the ocean could be a real perk. Even if you don’t swim or boat, but simply like to sit in your car and look out at the water, be it the sea, a pond or a lake, if this means a lot to you, find a home in a community near the water. Chances are your house will grow in value as the years go by.
• Negative Factors — Even if you don’t mind living in a home that has the town’s windmill or a cell tower as a next door neighbor, bear in mind that selling it to someone else in the future may be more difficult than you think. Your home beside the railroad tracks will likely be a “real steal” compared to other properties in town, but unless you really love it, you may want to pay a little more to get some distance between you and the locomotive.
A few more tips:
Realtors will generally advise you to buy the least expensive home in the most expensive neighborhood. Why? Because with a few improvements, your house will sell for a higher price than the huge new Colonial in the nearby development of ranches. Also, a single family home that is located in an area close to condo complexes, apartment buildings and 3-deckers, will not retain its value as much as an identical house in an area of single families.
Homes on busy streets, especially divided highways, will lose value faster than homes on side streets although they may be more convenient to businesses and buslines.
So do your homework, consult your Realtors and believe it when they tell you that the most important factor in buying a house is “location, location, location.”