Understanding the Neighborhoods:
The next stage of your market research is done on the scene, driving or
walking slowly through the streets. That's the only successful way to canvass a
What, exactly, defines "a neighborhood"? It may be a grouping of
houses around a physical landmark, such as a park, marina, valley, or hill. It can be as
small as one block or large enough to surround a fashionable shopping area.
When you start looking for a neighborhood, think about what you want in terms of proximity
to people and goods and services. Do you want to be close enough to stores so that you can
get there on foot or bicycle? Do you want a closely knit community where everybody knows
everybody else, or a more impersonal place? A huge apartment house can be a neighborhood
all by itself, where you nod to people in the elevators for years without ever knowing
Drive around and investigate neighborhoods in the car, then get out and walk around those
that really interest you. You learn a lot on foot! Ideally, you shouldn't tackle more than
three neighborhoods in one day, because no matter how good an observer you are,
communities will start to blend together in your mind.
If you see a "For Sale by Owner" sign as you walk, go into the house and look
around. If you see a place under renovation, stop and speak to the contractor. Or if you
notice an ad about a neighborhood block association meeting or a house tour, take
advantage of it. You want to educate yourself as much as possible about the community
before you even begin to think of buying there. It's like marriage - you've got to know
the man before you make the big decision.
What are you looking for as you scout around an area?
Are yards well landscaped? Or are they filled with weeds? Are there broken-down cars
and bikes in the yard? That's a sign of sloppy homeowners and lack of community concern.
If you're looking in a city, are there vacant lots? Boarded-up stores? How long have
they been that way? The neighborhood may be in a state of deterioration. Do children
play in the streets? This could be good or bad. It might be a sign of a safe community, or
it could indicate that there are no playgrounds or parks available. Cul-de-sacs or
dead-end streets are very desirable for kids, since they mean no speeding traffic.
Do you see older people sitting on porches as well as children outside? A sign of
good balance in the population. Are the residential neighborhoods sprinkled with
commercial establishments? Many homeowners like having a corner grocer, a few boutiques,
and some popular restaurants nearby. Of course, the encroachment of shopping malls or
industry with large parking lots would be a different story. How close is the
nearest highway? Do you hear a lot of traffic as you walk the streets? Is it safe for
kids? How's the public transportation? Is it near enough to be convenient but
distant enough not to be noisy? Are you too close to the airport or a railroad? An
all-night disco? Noise pollution could be a problem. If you're looking in a city,
are there iron bars on all the windows? This sign is self-explanatory-who wants to live in
Make yourself a list of pros and cons. No one neighborhood will be perfect, but there will
be some whose faults you can overlook because their positive qualities overcome their
This Homebuyers Tip was excerpted from:
The Smart Woman's Guide To Buying And Renovating Real Estate For Profit,
by Suzanne Brangham, Clarkson N. Potter, Inc., 1987.