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.
Don't let your house fall behind.
Every homeowner knows that maintaining a house is hard work, and few have the time, money or willpower to keep their home looking perfect at all times. When it’s the peak of home selling season, it may seem like half the houses on your block are in pristine, market-ready condition, or they’re under construction and will look fresh and new in no time. How can you keep your house from becoming the worst-looking house on the block, or letting it fall behind on updates? It may seem like an impossible task, but it's one all homes face eventually.Take stock of your aging home.
Take stock of your aging home.
Even if it seems like every house in your neighborhood is getting a fresh interior, exterior or is newly built, the typical house has at least a few decades under its belt. “U.S. housing stock is aging, and especially in city centers and areas of urban density,” says Holly Tachovsky, CEO of construction information company BuildFax. So don't feel so bad about your chipping paint and dated entrance, but know that maintenance and renovations are key factors in ensuring your home will hold value and last for generations. Read on for tips on keeping your house updated as your neighborhood changes.Attend neighborhood open houses.
Attend neighborhood open houses.
For your house to increase in value along with other houses being built or renovated in the neighborhood, it needs to be on par with the updates. An easy way to know what you need to do to keep up with the Joneses is to attend open houses when a nearby property goes on the market. Listing agents expect curious neighbors to pop in, and it’s a great opportunity to see what the interiors look like and compare them to your home. If houses selling for top dollar in your neighborhood have new kitchens and master suites, you may want to put kitchen and bathroom renovations on your to-do list.Get a green thumb.
Get a green thumb.
Don't let your house get a reputation as the worst on the block by neglecting its curb appeal. Keep the siding clean and consider repainting, and maintain the grass and landscape to keep the house looking fresh from the road. Kris Kiser, president and CEO of the Outdoor Power Equipment Institute, says relandscaping your yard also gives you the opportunity to select flora that work best for the climate, your property and the amount of time you have to maintain it. “Put the kinds of plantings in place that will hold your dirt in place, that will grab and capture and filter rainwater, and put in flowering plants,” he says.Make minor updates.
Make minor updates.
Keeping up with other houses in the neighborhood doesn’t mean every project has to be a big one. Small updates to keep your home looking well-cared-for, like fresh paint in each room or new doors on cabinets, can make a big difference. Dan Tarantin, president and CEO of Harris Research Inc., the parent company of N-Hance Wood Refinishing and Chem-Dry, notes that refinishing hardwood surfaces can achieve a new look at a far more affordable price than replacing materials throughout the house every time you want to update. “That is a way to allow people to be able to do all the projects at once, because of the cost and the convenience,” he says.Maintain, maintain, maintain.
Maintain, maintain, maintain.
The key to keeping your house from being a teardown candidate when you decide to sell is to maintain the basic systems, care for the property and ensure it runs properly. Tachovsky says regular maintenance is necessary to keep houses from falling apart: “They constantly need that upgrade, and if they’re maintained well over the life of a structure, the structure can be useful for a long time.” From the roof to siding, electric and plumbing, keep an eye on the age of systems and have them serviced regularly. Otherwise, she says, your home is “going to show its age pretty profoundly.”Get the most out of what you have.
Get the most out of what you have.
With proper care and maintenance, you should be able to get the full life out of major appliances and systems, such as your HVAC, and the same goes for floors, cabinets, outdoor walkways and furniture. Have your carpets cleaned, consider placing a rug over hardwood floors that get the most foot traffic, pull weeds around the driveway and sidewalk and clean your furniture regularly so the natural oils from people and pets don’t set in and cause long-term damage. Even if you’re sick of your kitchen's appearance, you don’t have to demo the entire thing. Consider quartz countertops to replace laminate, or put a new finish on existing cabinets to can make them look new. With a little work, “we’ve seen people fall in love all over again with their kitchens,” Tarantin says.Don't be afraid to freshen what you've updated.
Don't be afraid to freshen what you've updated.
Especially if you’re planning to remain in your home for 10 years or more, even the most on-trend master bathroom or living room can look completely dated when you sell. Investing in a bathroom update now will likely give you years of use, but don’t be afraid to update again as your needs change or the space’s age starts to show. Kiser points out that making changes over and over again is particularly easy with landscaping. “You can move this and move that” until you achieve the look and functionality you’re hoping for, he says.Improve for more than ROI.
Improve for more than ROI.
Don’t spend all your savings trying to match new builds or flipped houses if you can’t enjoy the updates. Plenty of homebuyers are planning to make changes to a house they buy anyway. From 2010 to the start of 2017, post-sale home remodels increased by 54 percent compared to the previous seven-year period from 2002 to 2009, according to BuildFax. Tarantin says hardwood floors, for example, are often a preference among homebuyers, but they're only worth the money if you’ll enjoy the look as well. “If you’re thinking about selling your home in the near future, and you’re thinking of installing hardwood floors because of saleability, our customers tell us it’s not worth it,” he says.Read More