First-time homebuyers often learn the hard way to evaluate the neighborhood as well as the price.

Your first home is perhaps the biggest investment you’ll ever make. And while your independent mortgage lender — like Prime Mortgage Lending of West Asheville — ensures that you get the best loan possible as a first-time homebuyer, he also wants to make sure you make a smart decision. To get your money’s worth in your first home, you have to consider more than just the sales price.

Most people know to drive through the neighborhood of the house you’re considering, to see the condition of the other houses and to make sure the area’s safe at different times of the day, but many first-time homebuyers overlook the more subtle clues. It’s imperative that you do your homework not only regarding the house and how it’s been maintained, but also about the current status of the area and how it may look in the future.

What to Look for in the Neighborhood

To help with your house hunting, let’s take a look at things that first-time homebuyers often overlook. This list of ten aspects of the neighborhood provides an incomplete but invaluable checklist to review when you go house-hunting:

  1. It may not seem like sidewalks are all that important; however, if you like to walk or run regularly, have a dog that needs a daily evening jaunt or have children that love riding their bikes, sidewalks become a necessity. In addition, the lack of sidewalks discourage community activity; if no one walks, how do you meet your neighbors?
  2. Mature trees. The baby trees planted with new construction offer no respite from the brutal afternoon sun. If you’re accustomed to fall foliage, you’ll miss that too when the time comes. And without trees, there are fewer birds and squirrels as well.
  3. Well-kept neighboring homes. This is one of the most important clues about the neighborhood. Even if a house looks temptingly perfect, if the neighbors have overgrown grass, untended flower boxes, a fence that leans slightly to the side or other signs of neglect, it should trigger a red flag. If this trend doesn’t get better soon, it ultimately will bring down the value of your home. Be warned.
  4. Nearby parks. Parks typically attract families, and as families move into the neighborhood, crime often goes down. Criminals don’t want to be seen, so a well kept, well-populated park is a good sign.
  5. Cars parked in the neighborhood. This telltale sign goes hand-in-hand with well-kept yards: if the houses look nice, but the cars on the street or in driveways are in disrepair, that’s a warning sign. If you see cars up on blocks in any driveway, it’s probably not the best place to set down roots.
  6. Proximity to places you most like to frequent. Everyone’s needs are different, but if you’re like most first-time homebuyers, the best house for you is located in a neighborhood with access to common necessities. If it takes 20–30 minutes to get to a restaurant, grocery store or gas station, think twice about living there. Look for amenities close to home.
  7. Property taxes. Many people don’t think of taxes until they sit down to sign the closing papers, but it can cause sticker shock. Some counties rely on property tax to fund schools, for example, and rates per year can climb into thousands of dollars. It’s smart to check into the tax rate — or better yet, the exact amount you’ll owe — well before your closing.
  8. Foreclosure and for rent signs. Well-established neighborhoods have long-term residents. Too many rental properties can mean, at the very least, potentially less invested residents. A high turnover in the neighborhood also means local community organizations — like the library, the volunteer fire department and churches — can’t find and maintain long-term support.
  9. Annoying sounds or smells. Are there train tracks within hearing distance? Do you really want to hear it rumble by on a regular basis? What about factories that produce a noxious smell that assaults you every time you leave your home? Paper mills, for example, are smellier than people realize. Check the map carefully to make sure you aren’t buying a potential nightmare.
  10. Unsightly structures. Maybe you put up with things like a water tower or cell tower, but even the perfect house in the perfect, non-smelly location can turn sour if you have to look at one every day. Commercial or industrial activity can really impact your resale value if it’s something you have to deal with on a regular basis. It’s not the best choice for first-time homebuyers.

Once Prime Mortgage Lending of West Asheville has approved you for a loan amount, all you’ll need is this first-time homebuyers’ checklist to find the perfect house. Keep in mind all these tips, and don’t forget to check the quality of the neighborhood schools, if that’s applicable. Zack Adam of Prime Mortgage has other advice for first-time homebuyers. Call him at 828-242-4780.

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