If you’re in the market for a new home, you probably already realize that the location, neighborhood, and zip code you choose can matter more than the house itself. You can always do work on a home to make it what you want or need. If you don’t have a great location, there’s nothing you can do about that.
If you’re looking for a family-friendly community, there are certain features that you should keep at the top of your priority list.
The following are features and things to know to choose a neighborhood or community that’s going to meet the needs of your family now and in the future.
Parks and Playgrounds
If you’re moving to a suburban or rural area, then parks and playgrounds might be nice to have but not necessarily a must-have. If you’re moving to a city with an urban design, then parks and playgrounds can be a must-have because you might not have a yard for your kids to play in.
In urban areas, outdoor play spaces are the most sought-after amenities for parents searching for a new home.
If your kids are older, you might look for a community with recreation opportunities, like fields or sports courts nearby, hiking and biking trails, and places to swim.
Even if you buy a home with a yard, these are things that you’re very likely going to want to have nearby whenever possible.
In the United States, many places are dealing with a serious housing crisis. There is a lack of inventory and often bidding wars when a home does become available. While some hope things will cool down a bit with rising interest rates, the lack of inventory is likely to continue to make housing tough.
If you have a family or you’re planning to have one in the future, you need multiple bedrooms and enough space for everyone.
Affordability becomes a must-have for families.
In some major cities like Austin and Seattle, new guidelines are being put in place to offer affordable housing developments with two- and three-bedroom options.
If you’re looking for a single-family home, the further away you can get from major urban areas, the better the deals you’re likely to find.
Some families are opting to skip the suburbs altogether and go straight for rural areas because they get more space, which following the pandemic, is important to them, and they can find better prices.
Before you buy a home in a community, take some time walking and driving around. It’s always a good sign when you see a lot of people walking and jogging or kids outside playing.
With that in mind, you want streets that are safe.
Child-friendly neighborhoods and cities should have plenty of crosswalks for pedestrians and sidewalks.
Children are at the greatest risk of being involved in pedestrian accidents.
Look out for speedbumps and other things that slow drivers down in the community too.
When you visit a neighborhood, pay attention to the types of streets. Streets that are long and can be used as cut-throughs during rush hour might end up being unsafe. Streets that are cul-de-sacs or horseshoe-shaped tend to be the safest. Look for a neighborhood away from highly-trafficked routes and streets with curves that will slow cars down.
Research the Schools
If your kids are going to public school, the system might be one of your top deciding factors when you’re buying a new home.
You can start by researching school scores on sites like GreatSchools and Niche. These rankings are usually made up of comparisons of test scores relative to state averages and year-over-year academic improvements. It’s also pretty simple to find information about the student-to-teacher ratio and enrollment trends.
While these are a useful starting point, the sites don’t tell you everything you need to know about how good schools are.
You should take a look at the websites for the school district and individual schools. You can also check out their social media pages to get a feel for how involved parents are.
If you’re working with a local real estate agent, they’ll be able to give you some insight and input on schools too.
Once you’ve narrowed down at least the neighborhoods you’d like to live in, it’s always a good idea to visit the schools in person and bring a list of questions with you.
Of course, you want your family to be safe, which means checking into crime rates.
You can use online tools and maps that will show you crime rates and the types of crimes that usually occur in a neighborhood.
You can also use apps and tools that highlight what’s going on in the neighborhood to learn more about safety, and many neighborhoods and community associations have social media pages where residents highlight anything going on.
The Neighbors App is a platform you can use to connect with neighbors, and the SpotCrime tool is also good for learning more about safety. CityProtect is a tool that provides specific crime data, and Family Watchdog helps you learn more about sex offenders in the area.
An engaged, active community is an important part of finding a family friendly place to live, but it can be a little more challenging to discern.
One way to get a feel for how engaged the community is is to look around when you visit initially. You want to see signs of life in a neighborhood or community.
If you don’t live locally, you can take a virtual walk on Google.
Again, the social media pages for the neighborhood are a good place to look, too, as are local events calendars.
If there are often community events and everyone seems to be engaged on social media, that’s a good indicator.
Every family has its own preferences and needs, but the above are some of the basics of a family-friendly city or community that can at least help you get started in your search for a new home.