When you're in the market for a new place to live, it helps to remember the golden rule of real estate: you're not just buying or renting a home — you are also becoming part of a neighborhood.
All neighborhoods are not created equal, and there's no such thing as the perfect neighborhood: everyone has different needs and desires.
However, there are components common to all great neighborhoods. As you evaluate the best aspects of a prospective neighborhood, you'll want to match them to your daily needs.
1. Lifestyle match
Is the neighborhood in sync with your current lifestyle? Both renters and home buyers tend to gravitate to areas with similar demographics. Just as a fantastic suburban neighborhood in a gated community may not be right for a young single professional, a family with three small children might not find a small condo in a hip downtown neighborhood to be the best fit for their lifestyle.
2. Pride in ownership
Pride in ownership is obvious when the residents maintain their homes and care about their neighborhood. Neighbors connect and create local groups that bring the residents together for the betterment of the area.
3. Low crime rate
Low crime rates give a neighborhood a sense of ease and calm. Crime rates are a quick way to tell if a neighborhood is improving or not, since everyone is concerned with safety and security. You can usually spot a transitional and improving neighborhood by the improvement in its crime rates.
4. Great schools
For homeowners and renters with children, great schools top the list of what makes a great neighborhood. Trulia shows school ratings using data from Great Schools.
Integrating the data into map views lets house hunters see which schools are highly rated and also read reviews from actual parents of students in that district. Not only are great schools important for families with children, but they also make the surrounding neighborhoods more valuable and more sought after, keeping property values strong.
5. Outdoor activities abound
Being close to the outdoor adventures you love can sweeten the appeal of your neighborhood. Being close (or within a reasonable drive) to places to jog, sail, or pedal can keep you in love with your home. Proximity and access to tennis courts, neighborhood swim clubs, and golf courses are also qualities that keep your neighborhood on par.
6. Stepping back in time
There's something about an area with history that makes it very desirable. Tree-lined streets give neighborhoods a charming, older, and established feel.
These neighborhoods are usually very stable, with longtime residents and community support, which also helps encourage safety and low crime rates.
7. Access to medical care
Being close enough to get to a hospital or doctor's office quickly is key for many people, especially for seniors, retirees, and families with young children.
Neighborhoods where plenty of families live are a real draw for buyers with children. There are more opportunities for children to play, socialize, and make lifelong friends. Carpooling groups and other children's programs are much more accessible when the neighborhood is overflowing with kiddos.
9. Close to public transportation
Easy access to public transportation is a fantastic plus for a neighborhood and an amenity for almost any lifestyle. From a commuting millennial to a retiree who wishes to keep the car at home, public transit is a solid upgrade to any neighborhood.
10. Nearby shopping and restaurants
If you want to join the hustle and bustle (and don't want to cook dinner every night), having great restaurants, shopping, and markets in close proximity is a must!
11. Nightlife and entertainment
Is there a nearby town center or downtown with movies, theaters, bars, and nightlife? This could be the one thing that makes your neighborhood come alive. This is a priority for anyone who is young and single, but everyone appreciates a neighborhood where the hot spots are within walking distance or a short cab ride away.
Being able to leave the car keys at home and hit the pavement to walk to markets, shopping, restaurants, parks, and all the other amenities your neighborhood has to offer can alleviate a lot of road rage . . . and make you fall even more deeply in love with your neighborhood.