6 Ways to Try Out a Neighborhood Before Moving There
How to determine whether a neighborhood is right for you before you close on a home.
Utilize local friends, walking tours and even hotel or short-term rental stays to try out a neighborhood you're not familiar with.(Getty Images)
If you're looking for a better way to get a feel for a new neighborhood, consider a tactic some recent homebuyers in New York have put to use: Because they are seriously considering moving to a neighborhood they don’t know well, they rented an Airbnb and had a staycation in the area they’re exploring. They stayed in their rental from Thursday through Monday, not only enjoying the area’s restaurants and shops, but they even practiced what might be their new commutes to work.
This young couple plans to sell their first home, a one-bedroom condo in an expensive neighborhood, in order to buy a larger home in a neighborhood that would be more affordable and family-friendly. Currently they live in a chic area of Manhattan that has become increasingly expensive and gentrified over the last few decades, with an explosion of luxury condominiums, and the boutiques and markets which support the demands of these new residents.
The couple has loved living there, but they’re ready for the next chapter of their lives, and like so many young people in big cities across the country, they’re being priced out of a neighborhood that was once significantly more affordable. Furthermore, as they begin to explore the possibility of starting a family, they want more space while simultaneously lowering their cost of living.
Certain Brooklyn neighborhoods – while certainly not inexpensive for the average American (or New Yorker) – have become increasingly attractive for young families who feel stretched by the stressful demands of Manhattan living, but who aren’t ready to embrace suburban life. For people like these clients, moving to a new neighborhood can be a scary prospect – the consequences of a life decision this big can be daunting. That staycation in their potential new neighborhood was eye-opening, and one of many ways to scope out a new neighborhood without going in totally blind.
Here are six ways to see if a new neighborhood is right for you:
1. Take a Staycation
There is no way to get to know a neighborhood better than living in it. If you can, rent an apartment for a week or a long weekend in a neighborhood you’re curious about. Practice living in the new neighborhood, including commuting, eating, shopping and exercising. Is it fun? Easy? Exciting? Or the total opposite? If nightlife is important to you, grab a nightcap at a local bar. If cooking is important to you, scope out the nearest markets. If outdoor spaces are important to you, take a walk or a jog in the nearest park and see how it feels.
2. Talk to Your Friends
Do you know people in the new potential neighborhood? What do your friends and acquaintances say about the quality of life? The restaurants? The traffic? The noise? The school system? The parks and playgrounds? The cultural outlets? The commute? If you don’t know people who already live in the neighborhood, how do you feel about making new friends?
3. Walk the Streets
All around the world, in just about every city, there are so many neighborhoods with well-established histories. Taking a walking tour can be fun and educational, as well as informative. Is there local lore that makes your potential new neighborhood even more interesting? What is the architecture like? Do the locals in the neighborhood look like how you envision yourself in the next chapter or your life?
4. Taste Test
What is the local culinary scene like? Even if you’re not a foodie, going out to the local restaurants will tell you a lot about the neighbors. Are the restaurants elegant and formal, or hip and casual? Is the food basic or inventive? Are the restaurants expensive or more affordable? Whether the restaurants are empty or bustling on a Friday night – or even on a Monday night – might speak volumes about the habits of your potential new neighbors.
5. Envision Your New Life
How do you feel about living in the new neighborhood? Does it feel natural? Does it seem like a good fit? What will it be like to come home to this neighborhood every day after work? Is it something you’re looking forward to, or does it seem like a dreaded compromise with which you’ll never really be happy?
Though homeownership has many benefits, it’s a big commitment. If you’re thinking of moving to a new neighborhood but you’re not ready to really invest in the area, rent there for a year to see how it goes. Renting may allow you to actually save more money for a bigger down payment on your next home and give you the luxury of putting off the big decision a bit longer.
The couple who tried out the neighborhood with a staycation are still looking for a new home, but their weekend in Brooklyn got them excited. The wife now has a list of her favorite neighborhood restaurants and the husband has already found a route for his morning jog. They have begun to envision the next chapter of their lives with excited anticipation.