Deciding where you want to live is the one of the most, if not the most important decision you will have to make when buying or building your home. If you are buying or building a home, chances are that you plan to be there for a while, so many factors will go into this decision.
First you need to think, are you going to start looking in the city, suburbs or far from either of those? Cities are great, everything is easily accessible, and they offer tons of energy. Suburbs offer family-friendly enclaves. And the country can be a breath of fresh air and offers tons of space. It is simply up to you to decide which ones works best for your lifestyle.
Here is a quick checklist as you sort through your options:
Amenities: What is nearby? Are there nearby parks, open spaces, restaurants, shops, a grocery store? How about things in the community like libraries, community centers, work out facilities? The best way to find out is ask locals or get in your car and check it out for yourself!
Schools: This isn’t just for people with children, if you are newly married or want to have kids at some point in your life that is very important to consider. This may be the single most important factor in choosing where you live. What school district you would like to be in can limit your choices of where you want to live. You will need to check out test scores, class size and school rating of different schools in the area that you want to live in. A helpful website to help you find out this information is http://www.greatschools.org/.
Community services: You will want to get a sense of the community and its current affairs. Reading community blogs and local newspapers will clue you in about issues like traffic, safety and development projects.
Transportation: Do you want to drive everywhere? Be able to bike places? Or go completely car free? These are all things to think about. Check out the local transit system and see if you will be able to get everywhere you might want to go, the times and how close the stops are to where you may want to live.
Commute times: If you plan to get to work by car, determine whether you will be driving residential streets or busy arterials. Drive around at all times of the day, not just one weekends when you are looking at houses. Drive your route during rush hour. It would be unfortunate to move and come to find out your 15-minute commute has now turned into an hour commute both ways.
Ease of access: Are things easy to get to? How much time do you want to spend during a day of errands in the car? How long do you want a simple trip to the grocery store to take? Maybe that more expensive house might be worth it when it comes to how close you are to places you will be visiting frequently.
Safety: You can check online stats or drop by a local precinct to ask how a certain neighborhood is. Bottom line is if you feel safe walking around at night or not.
Economic stability: A healthy mix of residential neighborhoods (property taxes) and businesses (sales and payroll taxes) sets the stage for vibrant, well-funded communities. Cities with colleges and government services are most likely to remain stable.
This list is not completely, but it is a good starting point when thinking about where you want to build or buy. At the end of the day, it is about what means the most to you.