Why You Might Want to Try “Town Hunting” Instead of House Hunting

published Jul 14, 2023
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Looking for a new place to live can be hard enough, and if you’re not familiar with the area, it’s even more difficult. Although it’s tempting to narrow down your options by simply scrolling through homes online, Suburban Jungle, a consulting service that helps clients find their perfect place to live, recommends a “town first” approach. There are a few obvious considerations, such as budget, population, and commute, that can narrow down your search significantly. But Suburban Jungle insists they’re just the beginning. Here’s how it works.

Evaluate your lifestyle.

Ideally, your life should match your location. Suburban Jungle asks clients a lot of questions about their preferences in order to ensure this is the case: Where did you grow up? What did you like or dislike about it? What is your ideal town like? What kind of feel do you want it to have? What does your ideal property and yard look like?

Other topics Erin Fabacher, a broker in Austin, Texas, likes to cover with her clients include walkability, schools, and proximity to certain things like nightlife. “All of that will dictate where you can go regarding price,” she says.

“One of the most overlooked considerations is simply considering the ‘vibe’ of the location,” Jennifer Baptista, a Realtor in Wilmington, Massachusetts, insists. “Does this location fit the client’s personal ethos and vibe? I always want to make sure my clients feel safe and comfortable where they are landing.”

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Narrow down your priorities.

Some kind of compromise is inevitable, whether it’s related to renovations, square footage, or neighborhood. Knowing this, Suburban Jungle likes to ask for clients’ top three priorities in their search. (For example, if you want the biggest home in the most expensive town on a strict budget, you probably can’t expect it to be turnkey.)

Take a tour.

Town tours (not drive-bys or Google searches) are the way to get insider knowledge: “Finding your perfect town means getting to know different suburbs, communities, neighborhoods, and even streets,” Suburban Jungle researchers explain. “Towns can be incredibly different even block to block.” 

Real estate agents agree. “I always suggest clients make day trips to all the towns in that area,” shares Baptista. “They should visit the town on weekdays, and on weekends.” Fabacher also recommends checking out an area at night before committing to it. By doing this, you get the best sense of the community you’ll be surrounded by 24/7.

A few places Baptista advises her clients visit while they’re there: the library (to look into upcoming events), a playground, a local history museum, town center, and an ice cream shop. She also suggests they drive their hypothetical commute — 20 miles may sound doable, but if it takes an hour to get to work from home, that’s something you should know now. 

Fabacher also tells her clients to hit up the barista at the local coffee shop. “They get to see the people that come and go, as well as the culture. You’ll get a really good feel for what the neighborhood has to offer,” she says. Then, turn your attention to the customers. “Ask as many questions as you’re allowed before they’re caffeinated.” Chances are, you won’t get this kind of candid feedback anywhere else.