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How to's and money-saving tips from resident homeowner and mortgage professional, Cathy West

5 first time home buyer tips on finding the right neighborhood

For soon-to-be first time homeowners parsing through neighborhoods in an attempt to find the perfect house to raise a family, what to look for may not always be obvious. Sure, the home may be nice, the yard perfectly manicured and the view amazing, but there are too many other factors to consider before pouncing on a  property. 

When seeking a home, remember what can separate a good house from a great one – the neighborhood it lies in. A few things to keep in mind when researching neighborhoods, such as the following five:

1. Proximity to, quality of the schools
One of the most important reasons to choose a neighborhood is if raising a family is on your list of things-to-do in the near future. Make sure to check out the public schools around the home you are looking at. It is Very important to make sure it is located on a bus route, as getting children to and from school otherwise can be a daily hassle, according to U.S. News and World Report. If you are leaning toward private schools, make sure those in proximity have affordable tuition and uniforms, as well as a tolerable commute time.

Great Schools wrote that things too look for include extracurricular options, average class size, homework volume and discipline and safety standards. 

2. Walkability of the area
Something that you may not consider is the walkability of the neighborhood, explained Forbes. Why drive when you can enjoy the weather, save money on gas and take a stroll around? You can even check out the walk score of your potential new address. Another thing to consider is how easy it is to bike in the area. Biking is becoming an increasingly possible mode of commute, and a bike-friendly neighborhood is as beneficial – in terms of health and cost savings – as a walkable one. 

3. How close is the entertainment?
Forbes suggested making a list of places close to the home you are considering in order to determine how close it is to all of the places you and your family find to be the most fun. Leaving your neighborhood can be costly, so keeping your favorite places within reach will result in long-term savings and plenty of fun. 

U.S. News and World Report recommended checking out the restaurants, museums, shops, parks and pools nearby. 

4. How long will your commute be? 
Many of these have to do with the time it will take for you to travel the places you need or love. And this is one more. While you may not love your job, you do need to go there routinely and your commute time should play a huge role in determining the neighborhood you choose. The price of gasoline is high, and the longer the commute, the more you're going to pay each and every day simply to go to work. Tolls and the condition of your car are other factors to take into consideration when judging commute time, according to U.S. News and World Report. 

5. The homeowners association and property manager
Remember that awful RA or the torturous landlord you used to have? It'll be best to avoid running into a similar situation when moving into a new home, so be sure to do your research on property managers and homeowners associations. During your research, don't forget the obvious signs of managerial competence, such as the shape of the buildings in the neighborhood, according to Forbes.

Additionally, some properties have ratings listed online, which can make the research process much easier. More resources include residents of the neighborhood and the local newspaper. If you've noticed suspiciously low costs, this may be especially important to look into. 

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