Insider Advice: 5 Tips on Finding the Right Neighborhood

In my post on choosing a real estate agent, many readers added that you should search for an agent with a presence in your desired neighborhood. Great advice, but what if you don't know where you want to live? Whether you're planning a long distance move or a just to a different area in your city, here are some ways to find the perfect new neighborhood for you.

1. "Must Have", "Nice to Have", "Gravy" List. A fantastic tip from a commenter on this post, making a list of non-negotiables, niceties and bonuses applies just as well to neighborhood searches as home searches. Pick a few things you absolutely can't live without, such as public transportation if you don't have a car (or easy parking if you do). Decide what you would sacrifice a bit of convenience or money for (lots of green space, close to a farmer's market or main street) and put those on your Nice to Have list. Anything else your heart desires goes on the "gravy" list (or "frosting" if you're a sweet tooth!). And as our commenter says, don't compromise your Must-Haves for gravy. Gravy isn't dinner!

2. Use the web to narrow the search. If you happen to live in (or are moving to) a major city, Nabewise is a valuable resource. You can search neighborhoods, or "nabes," by a variety of criteria, from characteristics like quietest or trendiest, to resident types like families or artists. Top & bottom 5 nabes for each qualifier are ranked, or you can search by checking multiple options. Nabes are rated by users who live in or visit the areas, so it's an accurate reflection as to how the population views itself.

3. Be safe. Your real estate agent cannot legally answer the question, "Is this neighborhood safe?" So do some homework. You can find out incident reports by calling the local police department, or checking a website such as CrimeReports.com.

4. Take a field trip. If you live in the area, spend some time in your potential new 'hood. Have lunch, visit some shops, walk the residential streets. Wander, soak it in. Does it feel right? If not, repeat with a new neighborhood.

5. Don't live close enough for a visit? Go virtual. Read local papers online. Check Yelp for area restaurants and businesses you might want to try. Take a peak through the eyes of Google Street View. Familiarizing yourself with the walk from subway to grocery store will make you feel at home before you're even there!

What are your tips for finding a new neighborhood?

Image: Screenshot from Nabewise search.

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Tara is a Boston-based marketing maven-turned-lifestyle writer, who spends her time thrift shopping, canning, and doing DIY projects.

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