Home Buyer's Guide - closer look at...

Community Research Checklist
Many factors combine to make a community an attractive and pleasant place to live - and the most desirable towns are also those that typically see the strongest appreciation in property values.

While much of your opinion of a town will be based on your own viewpoint and impressions, there are some objective standards to review as well. Consider these factors when researching a community.

  • Is the community accessible?
    Access is a key consideration of any location. Is the area well served by major highways? How far is the nearest major city? The closest airport? How long of a commute will you have.
  • Is the school system highly regarded?
    School quality is a crucial factor in property value, so it is important even if you do not have children. Are the school buildings and grounds well maintained?
  • Consider prestige and pricing.
    Is the town considered an upscale community? Reputation can be important - sought after towns tend to appreciate strongly during good markets and retain their value best when the economy falters. Keep an eye on pricing, however, and make sure there are offerings within your price range.
  • Is there significant development in the area?
    This can be a source of strain on the community as local services become stretched by the growing population. However it also indicates that the area is in demand - and that property values may continue to grow.
  • Review town services and recreational facilities.
    Does the community offer parks and other recreational amenities? What services are provided by the town - police, fire, garbage collection, etc.? Is there municipal sewer and water service?
  • Are property taxes high?
    It's important to check out the real level of taxation. Since many communities use old or outdated assessments, the specified rate may not tell the whole story. Check on the actual tax bills of houses of the size and type you plan to buy - this should give you an idea of what to expect. Also check to see how quickly taxes have been rising in recent years.
  • Is there shopping and recreation nearby?
    Few homeowners want to drive a significant distance to buy groceries or see a movie. Check to see if the town is well served by stores and recreational facilities.
  • Watch out for problems.
    Try to discover any potential problems that may impact your quality of life. Is there excessive traffic in the area? Are there any proposals or plans to build an unappealing facility - power plant, prison, etc. - in the area?

Go to the Town Hall
The local municipal building is a great place to get some key information on a town that you are researching. You can get information on local schools, property tax rates, building regulations, and developments proposed to be built in the next few years. You may even get a feel for the community and whether it is right for you.