It’s that time of year again: spring is in the air, everything seems brighter, lighter, and happier. It’s moving season! When it’s time to find the best places to live, choosing a neighborhood is almost as vital as choosing the actual home you want to live in. A family’s most important goal is being safe. Your ideal desired neighborhood should have low crime rates, be financially affordable, and filled with people you can potentially become friends with – or at least trust to feed your cat while you’re away. The age of your family also plays a huge role in choosing a neighborhood. You may want to consider if your future neighbors have families with children in the same age group, access to playgrounds, a quality school district, and so much more.
“If houses are like spouses, a neighborhood is like the extended family. But while you can have a good marriage and still dread holidays with the in-laws, you’ll never love a house if you don’t like your neighborhood. How can you choose the right community? Become a neighborhood detective. Figure out what you’re looking for, do research and find a neighborhood that fits your description.” HGTV
Here’s a guide for what to look for when choosing a neighborhood…
Make a list: Before you acquire a realtor, sit down and write out what is most important to your family. What places and things are common in your weekly schedule? What makes a neighborhood special to you? This will help you to create an outline to give your realtor when it’s time to begin house hunting.
- Quiet streets or a busier, active area?
- Walk-ability to local amenities such as coffee shops?
- An abundance of trees and parks?
- Close proximity to shopping and restaurants?
- An older neighborhood or a newer development?
- A tight-knit community or a more individual feel?
In addition to your preferences, there are core standard things to consider:
- Crime Rate
- Local Schools and District Ranking
- Transportation, Walkability, Commute to the city
- Libraries, Community Center, Park District
- Noise Pollution from Airports or Highways
- Closeness to Hospitals and Urgent Care
- Lifestyle Needs, such as Nature, Shopping, Health Clubs
- Demographics such as Age and Cultural Diversity
As you ponder these questions, be sure you also consider the particular needs of each family member. “It’s easy to get caught up in looking for a home that checks off everything on your wishlist, but real estate experts say it’s more important to pay close attention to the neighborhood. After all, a house can be updated and fixed but you can’t change its location, the vibe of the community or your neighbors.” BankRate.com
Local Crime Rate: 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.
“It’s important to be proactive about your safety, especially when it comes to choosing a place to live. After all, the safety of your neighborhood impacts everything from your happiness and sense of security to your home’s resale value.” Safewise.com
Go for a drive: Get a feel of any neighborhood you’re looking to move in by going for a drive. Bring a partner with to take notes as you look around. What’s the curb appeal? Are the homes well maintained, flourishing with fragrant gardens? What about the quality of the sidewalks? Are people outside walking their dogs or riding bikes? Venture into the downtown area of the village/town. Do you see graffiti or other kinds of vandalism such as broken windows? Is the town supportive of small businesses, or larger chain restaurants? Do homes have strong deterrents such as “Beware of Dog” signs or high fences or bars on accessible windows? Do you feel safe while driving through these neighborhoods?
“It’s important that you feel safe wandering around your neighborhood. You can check out crime stats to get an overall picture of the area. It’s more important, though, to make sure you feel at home as you’re out and about, and can picture yourself being happy being a resident there.” MentalFloss.com
Finding a safe suburb with a low crime rate will give your family a lot of security. Safe and friendly locations such as Mount Prospect have an overall crime rate of 11 per 1,000 residents, making the crime rate here near the average for all cities and towns of all sizes in America. According to our analysis of FBI crime data, your chance of becoming a victim of crime in Mount Prospect is 1 in 90.
Evaluate noise pollution: Imagine this, you have finally found your dream home but it’s only four minutes away from an airport. Night and day you hear planes coming and going. Soon your dream home becomes a nightmarish reality. This is why it’s important to research neighborhood noise pollution. Living near an airport, highways or heavy traffic area is important to consider – and doesn’t always mean an automatic “no”. Local counties and villages have ways to limit the noise pollution with things like noise barrier walls, large trees, and bushes that absorb sound.
“Drive down the interstate highways bisecting many busy cities and suburbs, and you’ll likely no longer see the homes, buildings, or vistas that used to be a staple of roadway views. That’s because in most populated places, massive sound walls have been installed. These noise barriers, typically made of concrete and standing an average of 14 feet, turn the backs of neighborhoods, on narrower stretches of road, encase drivers in roofless tunnels.” Undark.org
To see if noise will be a factor in a particular neighborhood, check out the FAA’s Airport Noise and Land Use Information page, where you can search by state and airport to view relevant noise maps. For example, “Arlington Heights is about a twenty-minute drive from O’Hare International Airport, one of the largest airports in the country. But, thankfully, we’re far enough away that we aren’t all that bothered by the pesky plane noise.”
Transportation: How far are you willing to commute to work? Do you plan to drive, walk or take public transit to work or school? In the U.S., the average, one-way commute time is 26.1 minutes, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. If you commute to a full-time, 5-day-a-week job, a round trip that adds up to 4.35 hours a week and over 200 hours (nearly nine days) per year! With that much time in our cars and on public transportation, it’s important to calculate commute times.
“When you start with the maximum commute time, you can come up with a radius around someone’s job location.” The Washington Post
The goal is to find a neighborhood central to your family’s major needs: work, school , places of worship, etc. Villages like Park Ridge can help you with the math: There are 2 airports and 6 Amtrak train stations within 30 miles of the Park Ridge city center. The number of people who take public transportation in Park Ridge is 150% higher than the national average. The number of people who carpool to work in Park Ridge is 23% lower than the national average. The number of people who work from home in Park Ridge is 52% higher than the national average. Ideally reducing your current commute time is the main goal!
Tour the community highlights: Checking out park districts, community centers, and nature preserves will be a fun way to get connected to the locals. Having a great backyard is definitely a major selling/buying point to any home. But having access to beautiful hiking trails is a big bonus! 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!
“Since the dawn of time humans have formed communities so that they can feel part of something. We are very aware that you are the sum of the people around you and this means that depending on the people who are involved in the community will determine if it enhances or detracts your life. Whenever you are part of a community or thinking about becoming part of one you need to be aware of the potential effects that it could have on you.” SmartCompany.com
Here’s a list of Smart Company’s five reasons for researching the community you plan to live in:
- Inspiration and motivation – in strong communities there is always someone doing something amazing, which can have the effect of inspiring you to go harder and achieve bigger goals.
- Shared lessons – rather than having to learn from your own mistakes or successes you can reach out to the community and ask if anyone has had an experience that could be valuable to your situation.
- Contacts – in life and in business you are always in need of a particular service or may like to meet a particular person. When you are in strong community it is highly likely that someone can make an introduction for you.
- Opportunities – successful people are always doing cool stuff and when you are associated with them you often get to go along for the ride. Whether it’s a social activity, a once in a lifetime experience or a business opportunity, there is always an opportunity to be had.
- Fun – we are social animals and when you are part of a community there are always social aspects involved that you can have a lot of fun at.”
Local Schools and District Rankings: We all want our children to have the best opportunities life has to offer! Where they attend school shouldn’t be any different. 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.” BankRate.com
The schools within Prospect Heights districts are great examples of educational track programs.Prospect High School is ranked 21st within 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.
Think of your lifestyle needs: Exploring all that your neighborhood has to offer can be a wonderful adventure. Having a wide range of activities within your community will help adults and children alike adapt to this new environment and make friends. Local restaurants and music festivals are other lifestyle features worth reviewing. This will give you a feel of what your community looks like through the seasons.
“If you’re a person who enjoys getting involved with the community, you might want to look into nearby houses of worship, art centers, libraries, and other centers of activity. Consider checking out the local newspaper, websites, or bulletin boards to find out what’s going on in the area from week to week.” TheSpruce.com