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

Consider these tips for buying a new home.

Tips for finding the perfect neighborhood

While searching for a house can be difficult, many new homebuyers agree that finding the right neighborhood can be just as overwhelming. There are various factors to consider when deciding where you want to move. Do you want to live on the countryside, far from the grocery stores and other establishments? Would you like to find a community that's in walking distance from your children's high school? Beyond personal preference, you need to consider safety, accessibility and affordability.

Before looking for your dream home, you have to find your dream neighborhood. Here are a few tips for searching for the best place to live:

1. Do your research
Start your districtsearch online. There are dozens of resources you can use to find a living area that caters to your personal preferences. Plus, you can get an idea of how safe the neighborhood is before you move in and end up feeling uneasy.

"I had a client who was really worried about buying a house one neighborhood over from the one he lived in now," Rebekah Eaton, associate broker told My Mortgage Insider. "I got him to call the police station in his own neighborhood and the one in the other area. He found out the other one was safer than the one he lived in. He was just listening to friends who didn't have the right data."

Understanding the crime rate in a community can change your entire perspective on a house you thought you loved.

2. Make a list of your requirements
Once you do your research, make a list of requirements that build your dream neighborhood. Putting these factors on paper can help you get a clear understanding of what you're looking for, what you're willing to work around and what you can and can't live without. Perhaps you want to be near a park, must live in a family development and can go without living near shopping centers and restaurants. No matter what you have in mind for the perfect neighborhood, viewing your ideas on paper can help you make your final decision.

3. Go for a test walk
Don't limit your search to internet browsing. Before you commit to a community, consider taking a walk around the block to get first-hand idea of how you feel in the area. At this time, you can get an feel for how far shopping centers and schools are, how many kids live in the neighborhood and how much foot traffic to expect. This is great opportunity to talk to your potential neighbors; ask them about ongoing issues in the district, favorite restaurants in the area and other talking points that could help you make a decision.

4. …And go back for another one
Don't trust your first visit to the neighborhood. Move.org recommended visiting the area a second and possibly third time as the community could be quite different between the evenings and weekends. Saturdays and Sundays will likely be more lively, while weeknights will be more calm and secluded. You may also find that weekdays are more traffic-ridden and could make your ride to work more stressful than you're used to. Paying a second visit to the neighborhood you thought was your dream come true could change your mind and keep you from moving there in the first place. Keep this in mind before you commit.

5. Consider the school district
Whether you plan to have children in the future, you're a parent who already has kids in school or have children who will start kindergarten soon, finding a good school district may be at the top of your priority list. You might even choose your neighborhood based on your schooling decision.

While doing your research, start looking into schools in the area in which you see yourself living. Take note of the schools that spark the most interest and then schedule an appointment to meet with the administration. At this point, you can also take a tour with or without your children and get an idea of the atmosphere. Does it seem like a safe, clean and friendly environment for learning? How do you feel about the principal, teachers and other faculty and staff?

Furthermore, you can talk to the administration about test score averages, advancement programs and extracurricular activities. Feeling comfortable with the surrounding school district can ultimately help you make or break the decision about a certain community.

Whether you enjoy plenty of privacy or like being close to neighbors, there are so many factors that can make or break a neighborhood based on your personal preference. Keep these tips in mind before you commit to buying your next home.

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