Our summer days are numbered as cooler temps, changing leaves, and another “back to school” season is upon us. Are you in the process of buying a home at the end of summer, before school starts up again? Are you unsatisfied with your current neighborhood and looking to move your family to a better school district or a safer community?
Having children (or planning for future ones) adds additional details to check off while house hunting. When choosing a perfect home for raising children, finding the right neighborhood for them to develop is vital and will be an important factor in their upbringing. Whether this is your first home & you’re starting a new family, or you’re ready for a new chapter in a different neighborhood, attorney Ben Weaver is here to guide you in your search!
“Researchers found that children’s immediate neighborhood area has significant effects on life outcomes, and those outcomes can differ considerably compared to those experienced by children just streets away. In fact, their study claims that a child’s neighborhood has a greater effect on future income earnings than the neighborhood they end up living in as an adult.” Public Source
Illinois is such a culturally rich and diverse state, which offers homebuyers a wide range of quality neighborhoods to choose from. All you have to do is know what type of area you’re looking for, think of this like creating a neighborhood wish list. How will you know what kind of neighborhood is right for your family?
First, ask yourself these questions…
- A tight-knit community or a more individual feel?
- Is this neighborhood safe for your children to live in? Is the property safe for children?
- Walk-ability to local libraries, parks, park districts?
- An abundance of trees and nature to enjoy? Sidewalks and ample street lighting?
- Close proximity to your children’s potential schools?
- Are there other children around of the same age for your kids to play with?
Tips for Finding the Best Neighborhood for Your Children to Grow Up
Type of Environment: As a parent(s), do you consider yourself a country mouse or a city mouse? Knowing what kind of environment your family thrives in is key. If your family loves hiking and being in the outdoors, moving into a trendy fast paced urban neighborhood with limited vegetation is not likely to be the right fit. Sit down with your kids and make a “neighborhood wish list”. Not sure what to include on your wish list? Learn how to make one with our guide! Choosing your future home based on a list full of luxurious amenities is great, but there’s something special about finding a home that has the perfect entrance way to measure your child’s height every year or a back window in the kitchen that allows you to watch them swing on their playset while you cook dinner. Take the time and effort when discussing ideas with your loved ones. Make sure to include something that’s important to every family member.
Children of the Same Ages: We begin our journey of social development as children. The more opportunities to have social engagement with our peers increases the chance of becoming a centered and well rounded adult in the future. When searching for the perfect neighborhood, be sure to research information about the average age of children in your area. You can even ask your realtor to help you find a home in a neighborhood with a large population of children in your kid’s age group. Children need peers to develop life long friendships and to develop social skills. Kids can start learning strong cognitive skills while playing with others as young as toddlers! Click here to view the age demographics in Rolling Meadows.
“They are getting better at moving around, perhaps walking and running. They’re also beginning to express themselves through language that is more easily understood by adults around them. Young children are expanding their vocabulary. But, as they play and learn with other kids their age, they are gaining social skills and knowledge about peer interaction. This basically means that they’re learning how to share information, knowledge, and, yes, even toys! Kids who talk with their peers can begin to understand the importance of good communication. They can see the way their peers respond to things and become more aware of how to speak with others. At this age, they’re beginning to exercise the art of conversation, the give-and-take element of speaking.” IVY Prep Academy
Local Crime Rates: Narrowing down your potential location will become easier once you do some research on the local crime rates. Consider checking out the local newspaper, websites, or bulletin boards to find out what’s going on in the area from week to week. With most of these crime rate breakdowns, you can even pinpoint crimes by blocks. This will help you to determine which blocks have higher petty crime (for example: personal property theft from the backyard) to more serious crimes, such as assault. Here’s an example of the local crime rates in Buffalo Grove.
When it comes to keeping our children safe, there are certain measures many feel uncomfortable taking, yet in the current world we live in it’s a vital precaution. Tracking local sex offenders is a prime example of such difficult precautions. To simplify this task, the government has created a helpful website and tools to insure your children’s safety from such criminals.
“The NSOPW is a public safety resource that provides the public with access to sex offender data nationwide. Users can search for sex offenders in any jurisdiction within the United States, including Native American tribal jurisdictions. NSOPW’s search tool provides information about sex offenders through a number of search options, including searching by name, address, by zip code, by county, and city or town. Each of these options is dependent upon the jurisdiction in question providing the information in its own publicly accessible database.” Parents
Bonus: Within some neighborhoods you may find they have a “ Neighborhood Watch”. Villages such as Arlington Heights have a neighborhood watch that works with the police department: “The Neighborhood Watch Program is and excellent way to strengthen and secure our community. Neighborhood Watch works with the Arlington Heights Police Department to help with the prevention of crime, neighborhood emergency preparedness, and terrorism awareness. Neighborhood Watch groups are not vigilantes. They are extra eyes and ears for reporting crime and helping neighbors.”
Choose a Backyard The Kids Will Love: A backyard is more than a stretch of lush green grass and scattered flower beds, it’s a safe place where children explore their imagination in the comfort & security of your private property. When you choose a home, stand outside and think of the joys of being a kid and what your family needs. Don’t forget about outdoor pets! Space for our furry family members aka the family pet is important to consider, too. When observing the potential yard, make sure its a safe environment for your rabbit or dog to run around in. Look around from structural obstructions, possible wildlife and plants that might be a danger to your pets and children. Is it fenced in properly?
Backyards hold space for exciting possibilities like gardens, fire pits, and maybe even a pool or jacuzzi. Whatever fits the general needs of your family, having the right backyard also gives you more opportunities to entertain friends. Remember: accidents are possible – even at home. Protect your family from the unfortunate chance of lawsuits or property damage by getting insured. While house hunting, it’s smart to begin shopping around for homeowners insurance. You’ll most likely need it by the time you close on your property. Are you unsure of the process of looking for homeowners insurance? Read our guide to successfully finding the right homeowners insurance for your family!
Local Activities and Centers Close By: Checking out the park districts, community centers, libraries, and nature preserves will be a fun way to get connected to the locals and see what opportunities your children have! While having a great backyard is definitely a major bonus to any home, having access to beautiful hiking trails is a plus! Glenview Park District is one of the largest, most unique park districts in Illinois where you can learn about the future, discover the past, take up a new sport, or enjoy your leisure time in the great outdoors. Staying active, healthy, and connected will increase your family’s quality of life!
Being a member of the local library nearby adds an extra feeling of belonging to the community and resources, such as tutoring help or extracurricular classes. Neighborhood libraries such as Indian Trails Public Library in Wheeling often have creative events that the whole family can enjoy! These programs encourage local residents of all ages to get involved with every aspect of their communities.
School District Rankings: We all want our children to have the best opportunities life has to offer! Where they attend school is a huge component to their success, both socially and academically. Most suburban school districts create educational track plans. They generally start from elementary school through the entire high school career. When researching school districts, expand your search to future grade school options. This will give you a good perspective of a district’s long term efforts in conjunction with the students educational success.
“Even if you don’t have children, buying a house in a community with good schools can be a smart investment, because future buyers may have children. Schools have a lot to do with the resale value of a home. Even if the schools aren’t A-rated or B-rated, you want to know that going in when you make the decision to buy.” Bank Rate
The schools within Prospect Heights districts are great examples of educational track programs. Prospect High School is ranked 21st in Illinois! Students have the opportunity to take Advanced Placement coursework and exams. The AP participation rate at Prospect High School is 70%. The total minority enrollment is 25%, and 8% of students are economically disadvantaged. Prospect High School is 1 of 9 high schools in the Township HSD 214.
Safety First: Having safety guards and stops signs on every corner is something important to look for when choosing a school district. Knowing that these helpful adults are around to help guide your kids safely across the street will give you and your child the confidence and a peace of mind when they walk to and from school. Some towns have actually put together “School Travel Plan” documents to ensure that everyone is on the same page regarding student safety. Here’s a great example from Des Plaines!
Before & After School Programs: Let’s face it, you have to be able to pay for your lovely new home. That means you’ll want your child to be somewhere safe and supervised on days you may have to work longer hours. No need to feel guilty, there are resources to help! Before and after school programs will help your child to stay connected with their peers, have fun, and also provides an environment to receive help with homework. Check out Park Ridge’s “Beyond the Bell” program where “children explore a variety of activity centers daily such as arts & crafts, indoor and outdoor play, homework time and light snacks.”