6 tips for choosing a location when you're buying a home

  • Your home location will affect your long-term budget and quality of life.
  • Consider school districts and proximity to your office or attractions when choosing a location.
  • A neighborhood homeowner’s association can help your area stay nice, but you’ll pay dues.
  • See Insider’s picks for the best mortgage lenders »

When buying a home, finding the right location is arguably as important as finding the right home. And a good neighborhood depends on more than just friendly neighbors — you’ll want to look at various factors that will affect your living costs and your overall happiness.

Here are six major factors that can help you narrow down your location search.

1. Budget

Before you start shopping for homes, figure out how much house you can afford. Consider how much you could put toward a down payment while still having money left in savings. Then think about how much you can reasonably pay each month toward your mortgage. 

“The worst mistake, in my opinion, is working to keep your house,” Carolyn Morganbesser, Senior Manager of Mortgage Originations at Affinity Federal Credit Union, told Insider. “There’s no room for the movies or to go out to dinner, because your mortgage payment is higher than you anticipated.”

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Once you’ve figured out your budget, you can start thinking about home locations.

Your budget can help you decide whether you want to live in the city or pay less to live in a suburb. You’ll also find that some neighborhoods are more expensive than others. The trick is finding the balance between an area that’s in your price range and is an area where you would enjoy living.

2. Convenience

Ask yourself how important it is to be close to places like your office or school. The difference between a 10-minute commute and a 30-minute commute can have a huge impact on your daily life.

What else do you want to be nearby? Think about restaurants, outdoor attractions, and doctors’ offices. Be honest with yourself about what you want and how important convenience is to you.

Just know that proximity to in-demand places like cafes, restaurants, and nightlife could drive up the price of a home.

3. Transportation

If you have a car, compare nearby gas prices to the cost of fuel around the city. If it’s significantly higher or lower than in other places, the cost could affect your budget over the years.

Find out where the closest bus, train, or subway stops are if you use public transportation. Then talk to people in the area or search online for how reliable the public transit is.

4. Schools

Your address dictates which public school your child will attend. If you have kids (or plan to have school-aged kids while in this house), find out which schools they would go to. You may feel good about living in that neighborhood if you’re happy with the schools.

Don’t forget to think about the future of your kids’ schooling. If you have a child in elementary school, you should also look at the local middle and high schools.

5. Crime statistics

Learning more about crime in the area can help you decide whether you’ll feel safe living there.

AreaVibes is a useful resource for learning more about the crime rates in your zip code. See how the area’s crime statistics compare to the rest of the state. AreaVibes also categorizes how much of reported crime falls under either violent crime or property crime, then breaks it down into smaller categories such as assault, burglary, and vehicle theft.

6. Appearance

You probably care about how your home looks on both the inside and outside. It also might matter how other homes in your neighborhood look.

If neighborhood maintenance is important to you, you might want to move into an area with a homeowner’s association. HOAs have guidelines for keeping homes in good condition and act as moderators should you have a problem with a neighbor.

You will have to pay HOA fees, though, and each HOA works differently. Before moving into a neighborhood with an HOA, find out what it covers and how much you’ll pay.

Laura Grace Tarpley is an editor at Personal Finance Insider, covering mortgages, refinancing, bank accounts, and bank reviews. She is also a Certified Educator in Personal Finance (CEPF). Over her four years of covering personal finance, she has written extensively about ways to save, invest, and navigate loans.

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