Realtors Reveal The Secret Factors Behind Finding The Perfect Neighborhood

Lindsay Mound/Thrillist
Lindsay Mound/Thrillist

Decent schools nearby. A low crime rate. Taxes. That's only the tip of the iceberg for the new homeowners checklist when it comes to selecting the right neighborhood. Dig deeper and there are a handful of hidden factors to consider if you want to land the perfect fit. We surveyed a group of real estate agents about the most unexpected home-buying needs they encounter and compiled this list to make sure that you land in your dream neighborhood -- no matter your level of real estate experience. Because buying a home is the biggest purchase of your life -- get excited to do it right!

Walking distance to the nightlife

Some people may reject an attractive house because it’s too close to town center, and they relish their privacy and peace. Totally understandable. But settling down and buying a home doesn't mean you need to permanently leave the nightlife in your rearview mirror. In fact, there are many benefits to doing the exact opposite.

Where there is nightlife, there is great way to make new friends in your neighborhood, get to know your town, and otherwise savor the local flavor. (Literally, since the best restaurants usually crop up around drinking establishments, as do the casual dining institutions of the more indulgent breaded and fried variety.) It's entirely possible to be approximate to the center of the action without being kept awake at nights -- and if you're single and/or without kids you may relish just such an option, even if it bumps your mortgage payment up a modicum.

If you’re downtown, as bars so often are, there will likely be a lot more activities by daylight as well: art galleries, shops, craft and activity studios, cafes… and often some of the city’s more venerable and interesting architecture or monuments. It’s all there.

Lindsay Mound/Thrillist

The power line price advantage

One real estate agent told us, “It doesn’t matter how nice a house is. If it has power lines near it, no one will touch it.” People who believe that are making a huge mistake -- a mistake you can capitalize on by finding a great deal on a place that would otherwise be far more expensive. 

This is your opportunity to savor that dreamy mountain-view home! So what if some heavy-duty electricity runs through the gorge beyond the lake? You've still got a fantastic property with all the modern amenities. So do the opposite of the market and look for power lines. You may just snag a house you otherwise wouldn’t be able to afford.

When to go retro chic

In the cycle of urban development, older areas are transformed by new buyers, who see tons of cheap space, exposed brick, and fashionably retro infrastructure. The area will then transform rapidly with an influx of buyers looking to capture that vibe. It's important to discover a neighborhood like this early in its development so you can land a good price. 

As far as the retro vibe you get from exposed brick and stainless steel, if this is a look you need to relax at home, consider alternatives. What can you do with the existing structure that doesn't already have those features? Can you afford to lose a few inches by the far wall and put up your own brick or façade? You've got options; consider all of them so you can pull the trigger in confidence.

Lindsay Mound/Thrillist

Privacy and community standards

What if you feel more comfortable in a world without jeans, or shirts, or shame? Privacy and yard coverage will play a key role here. Not everybody wants to share the sight of their body -- and not everybody wants it shared with them.

If you just want the right to relax and unwind in the privacy of your own backyard without exposing too much to your new neighbors, look for suburban neighborhoods with high fences, thick bushes, or an even thicker copse of trees. You should be able to sunbathe to your heart’s content. Remember the general rule of exposure: whatever you can see can see you back. If you’re just looking for a little jacuzzi au naturel make sure the pathway from house to hot tub is fairly discreet -- yes, even if you’re still wrapped in a towel.

The moral standings of the neighbors

Living beside good neighbors can mean long-lasting friendships for you and your kids. Living beside bad neighbors can mean just about anything, depending on your lifestyle. Some people settle in HOA neighborhoods to guarantee a quality of life, while other people's idea of quality living is no HOA to tell you what to do. Look into neighborhood policies to make sure you land in a location that shares similar quality of life ideals. 

For some it’s an issue of whether they’ll return your hedge trimmer. For others, it's whether your untrimmed hedges are bringing down property values. In both cases, good fences make good neighbors; remember that your actions affect other people, but you also don't get much say in what happens next door. Find a neighborhood that strikes the balance you can live with. 

Bottom line: find out who will be sharing your white picket fence, because you want to be on good terms with the people you'll be seeing everyday, and hopefully inviting to the neighborhood cookout. 

Where are the city limits?

Often, you pick a home due to its proximity to where you work. So while living near the city means being close to all the amenities you need, you may find it valuable to live on the edge of town if that's where the office is. Some people take it even further and live just beyond town -- which may buy them certain freedoms from town regulations and taxation. Yes, living away from the city means longer drives to resupply and see some of your friends. But there's a compromise here. If you're split on the issue, look for homes off major arteries (or short back roads) and near city limits that will get you to your usual destinations quickly. Boom: all of the gain, none of the cost.

Waste management discounts

What seems like a no-brainer is more nuanced than you'd think. Estates near sewage plants are cheaper and can include massive plots of land. Depending what you use the land for (raising hogs?), the price point can be a major boon. Regardless of your lifestyle, research what you're in for: if that plot is your new home, visit the land on multiple days and times. If you have a consistent wind pushing the air away from your home, you may have just stumbled upon the deal of the century.