10 Simple Tips for Picking the Right House (and Not Regretting Your Choice Later)

It’s hard to know exactly what a neighborhood is like until you live there. But if you consider these 10 factors, you’re more likely to buy in a location you love.

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Updated May 28, 2024
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The concept of the perfect neighborhood is entirely subjective. You might be someone who values walkability and a local coffee shop. Or perhaps the house of your dreams is miles away from the closest neighbor. Regardless of what you’re looking for in a neighborhood, there are some factors everyone should consider so you can be sure you don't throw your money away.

The last thing you want to do is make an expensive purchase and realize that you love the house but hate the neighborhood. Here’s how to avoid that.

Focus on the noise level

MaxSafaniuk/Adobe ambulance rescue van on road street

There are a lot of different noise factors to consider when you purchase a home. Most people focus on potential noise from neighbors. Neighbors can be an essential consideration if houses are close together. Still, noises from the surrounding environment usually have a much more significant impact on day-to-day life. 

Is the home in an airplane flight path? Can you hear freeway noise from the backyard? How close are emergency services and sounds from their vehicles? None of these noises are deal breakers in and of themselves, but one or all of them might be a dealbreaker for you. If the noise in the neighborhood doesn’t work for you, then the house probably isn’t the one.

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Figure out walkability

Monkey Business/Adobe grandparents and grandchildren walking along the street

The location of the neighborhood will usually determine walkability. If the house is deep in the suburbs, then the only place you can walk is to other homes. But if the community is closer to a city, you might walk everywhere. 

There’s no right or wrong answer when it comes to walkability. Still, it’s crucial to ensure the neighborhood location meets your needs. If you’re looking for a local grocery store within walking distance, don’t settle for a house that doesn’t offer that.

Calculate your commute

Mego-studio/Adobe man driving his car on way to work

It can be challenging to consider commuting when shopping for a house. Even though you might plan to stay at your job for years to come, there’s never a guarantee that will happen. But you also don’t want to be stuck with an intolerable commute. 

If you find the perfect house, but the neighborhood is too far away from your job, it probably isn’t the right fit. For many people, commuting impacts day-to-day life more than any other factor.

Look for neighborhood amenities

PoppyPix/Adobe senior adult couple swimming in a sport pool

Neighborhood amenities could include anything from local parks to swimming pools. Consider the following amenities in your housing search: public libraries, dog parks, hiking trails, sports fields, bodies of water, and basketball courts. 

You are the only person who can determine which amenities matter to you and your family. But it’s probably the wrong choice if the neighborhood doesn’t have the ones you want.

Determine school district compatibility

Monkey Business/Adobe kids in elementary school sports team piggybacking

School districts are usually a top factor in house hunting if you have children. But here’s the thing — the criteria for a “good” school is subjective. Even though it might be a good idea to read reviews online and talk to other parents, it’s also wise to figure out what you’re looking for in a neighborhood school. 

Your top priority might be sports teams, extracurricular activities, or even a particular subject like engineering. Whatever your priorities, ensuring the neighborhood school district meets them is a good idea.

Budget for your property taxes and other fees

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Property taxes can make up a large amount of your monthly housing payment, so it’s a good idea to ensure that the neighborhood’s taxes fit your budget. HOA fees or other fees (such as Mello Roos in California) need to be considered as well. These fees can add up quickly, and if they don’t work with your budget, then the neighborhood probably isn’t for you. Your dream house will be the one that helps you lower your financial stress, not increase it.

Review development plans

netsay/Adobe neighborhood with residential houses and driveways

Some neighborhoods are still in the development stage, and this is especially true for new builds. It can take time to anticipate how an area will grow or change over the years. Often, the only way to do so accurately is to review the development plans. It might seem like an extra annoyance, but ensuring the neighborhood’s plans align with your needs is worth the hassle.

Assess pricing trends

nenetus/Adobe real-estate agent showing house plans on electronic tablet

The housing market has been all over the place for the last few years. For the most part, housing prices have been on the rise, but it’s a good idea to look at pricing trends in the neighborhood. If there are any huge dips or unexpected increases in home prices, you might want to talk with your real estate agent to learn what it means.

Explore comparable neighborhoods

Monkey Business/Adobe couple push daughter in stroller as they walk along street

If you fall in love with a neighborhood, it can be easy to assume that no other area compares. But the truth is that a nearby neighborhood might be an even better fit for you and your family. 

Even beyond that, exploring comparable neighborhoods can help you determine if there are elements that you don’t like about the first neighborhood. Or maybe you’ll realize that the first neighborhood truly is the location of your dreams.

Stick to your list

Kzenon/Adobe young couple looking for real estate

Home buying is an emotional process, and it’s easy to get swept up in the homes when you visit. That’s why it’s essential to stick to your must-have list. It’s a good idea to have two lists — one for the house and one for the neighborhood. When you find your perfect home, you’ll check off the criteria on both lists.

Bottom line

Studio Romantic/Adobe female real estate agent give keys to elderly couple

As a homebuyer, your ultimate goal is to ensure you are comfortable with your purchase. Your house is one of the most significant purchases you’ll ever make, and it’s okay to be picky about what you want in a neighborhood. 

And if you're still working your way through this list and haven't decided on all the factors that go into your dream house, just take your time. Use this space to add money to your savings so that more homes are within your reach.

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