First Time Home Buyer: Location

In the previous article in this series, we walked through a process that enables first time home buyers to estimate how much they can afford to pay for a new home.  The next step in this process is to figure out where to live.

Location of a First Home

There is a saying in the real estate industry that the three most important things to consider when buying a new home are "location, location, location."  While it's certainly true that where the home is located is important, it's not the only consideration to keep in mind.

In this article, we're going to help think through the question of location.  As we start to expand on this concept, it should be clear that a home's location can be a very personal decision.

One thing we'd like to note is this question can be divided into two decisions: big location and small location.  The big location decision is really all about a township or community.  For example, what are the attributes of a town that make it appealing to someone's lifestyle?

On the other hand, there is the small question of location.  For example, where does someone want to live in the township?  What features are important on the "street" level?

Figuring Out Where to Live

In this first section, we're going to be tackling the question of where to live at the township level.  These are the features of a community that might make them more attractive, or those that may come into play when deciding which real estate agents to work with when looking for a new home.

Education and School Systems

There are a couple of important factors to consider when deciding on the location of a home.  For example, a good school system never hurts if a buyer has children or is planning to have children in the future.

In most areas of the United States, the homes in better school districts will demand a premium price.  As a rule, it's also true that property taxes are higher in these townships because its citizens understand the importance of their school system to housing prices.  For this reason, the citizens of that township are more willing to approve increases to the school budgets.

Commuting from Home

Another factor to consider when determining location has to do with the commute to work.  At one extreme, there are people that drive over 1,000 miles as part of their weekly commute.  There are also people willing to commute for hours by train every day.  If anyone thinks these commutes are easy, they're not.  Some people will adapt to the commute, others never get used to it.

Once again, long commutes can make childcare difficult too, since children have to get dropped off and picked up each day.  Working eight hours, and a 90-minute commute each way, means leaving a child in daycare for over eleven hours.

Commutes and Lifestyles

At the extreme, people quit their jobs or sell their homes because commuting eats too much into their day.  Long commutes make it hard to get home in an emergency, and can really stretch the work day.  It's important to consider work / life balance.  It might be nice to have a larger home away from the city where the kids can stretch their legs, but if it's impossible to get home to watch a soccer game is it really worth it?

Even relatively short distances can take someone by surprise.  Before deciding on a township, take a ride during rush hour and see what the commute is like each day.  This is a very easy thing to do, and will save a lot of heartache later on.

Other Considerations

Another factor to consider when narrowing the choices is the community itself.  Some of these things might sound silly, but they also might be important when picking a location.  Listed below are a couple of questions that can help:

  • What kind of community resources exist that families can take advantage of?
  • Is there a community swimming pool, a recreation center, or soccer fields?
  • Where is the nearest hospital or medical center?  Even buyers that are healthy young couples need hospitals, especially if they are thinking about having children.
  • How far away are major shopping centers, supermarkets, and malls?
  • How far away are the in-laws?

Once this thought process is over, the choice of home locations should be narrowed to just two or three townships.

Location in a Town

The next decision has to do with the home's location at the street level.  The questions to think about are completely different; although they can be equally important as those that helped narrow down the choice of towns.

Here are some questions to ask when trying to figure out where to live in a town:

  • Where are the township's schools located?  How do children get to the elementary, middle, and high schools?  Do they walk to school, or are there buses that pick them up?  Do they need to cross a busy street to reach the school?
  • Are there mass transit bus stops or train stations in the community?
  • Where are the closest parks, recreational areas, or playgrounds?
  • What are considered the major thoroughfares in the community?  What is the traffic pattern like in the town itself?
  • Is buying a home on a busy street okay, or is living at the end of a cul-de-sac preferred?
  • How far is the nearest police or fire station?  Where is the closest fire hydrant?

These are the types of questions to ask before working with a real estate agent.  This is also a good place to stop because in the next addition in this series we are going to begin discussing how to work effectively with a real estate agent.


 About the Author - First Time Home Buyer: Location (Last Reviewed on September 14, 2016)