Aside from falling out of the sky and landing in the right metro market, in the right state, and at the right time, is there a more sensible, educated way to pick a home that is more likely than not to appreciate at a pace above inflation? We think so. First, there’s the obvious. Is the home constructed well? Does it have “curb appeal?” Is the floor plan logical and appealing to a broad batch of buyers? But if the three most important words in real estate are location, location, location, then let’s look at the less obvious. What makes a location more prone to appreciate?
In suburbia, the home should be close to a major thoroughfare or freeway, but not too close. Ideally, a 10- to 15-minute drive to major transportation links provides a good balance between the convenience we want and the quiet, ‘away from it all’ surroundings we desire. In urban areas with higher density, it is best to be within walking distance of public rail or subway lines.
Here’s the equation: growth in job creation + demand for housing = higher home values. However, look at regional job growth in the long term. A quick rise, particularly in a single industry such as high tech or automobiles, could fall just as quickly. The key, say real estate experts, is to look at broad-based growth in a number of industries. That way, should one industry falter, the local region can still achieve economic growth and sustain adequate demand for housing.
Job Base II:
Remember the old Wall Street maxim, “buy low, sell high?” Well, by the same token, beware of an area that is in hyper-appreciation, and where homes routinely garner multiple offers at asking, or above-asking price. Such an area is destined for cooling and, perhaps, a correction that better aligns prices to reflect the area’s true value.
Get the facts, ma’am, from the local police department that covers the area you are considering. Typically, police departments operate crime prevention units that interface with the community. These units are happy to inform you of crime statistics, and compare those stats against similar neighborhoods or cities to give you a relative comparison of local crime activity.
Mind your ABCs
If all of the above factors are similar among the neighborhoods or cities you are contemplating, the biggest remaining differentiating point is likely to be the quality of the local schools. Among some, particularly families with school-age children, the quality of local schools may be the single most important factor when deciding upon where to buy a home. We would probably all agree that standardized test scores alone don’t tell the whole story of the quality of a school. Nonetheless, test scores represent the best apple-to-apples benchmark, and a potential home buyer (even without kids) shouldn’t ignore the importance of such data and their affect on resale values.
How’s the view from up there?
There will always be people who will pay a premium for a gorgeous view. Just make sure the view can’t be obstructed, and that an El Niño won’t transform a hilltop home into a valley home.
Don’t limit your search to Sunday afternoon
Ahhhh… it’s Sunday afternoon, the typical time for visiting an open house. The neighborhood is quiet, parking is plentiful, and traffic is minimal. But what’s the same neighborhood like at commute time on Tuesday morning? Or during evening hours on a Friday? Is the traffic incessant? Are the stereos loud? You won’t know unless you check it out. What you want out of a home is very personal. Perhaps even unique. You owe it to yourself to make sure the home you want is located in a neighborhood that you like, and that fits your needs and lifestyle.
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