What to consider about a neighbourhood before you buy

Considering the fact that purchasing a property is a long-term, important investment, it is vital to spend the time doing research and finding out as much as possible about your potential new neighbourhood, says Adrian Goslett, Regional Director and CEO of RE/MAX of Southern Africa.

He adds that there are several factors that make a neighbourhood and community what it is, and having an idea of what these factors are will provide potential buyers with a snapshot of what it will be like to live in that area.

According to Goslett, there are five aspects to consider when determining whether or not a neighbourhood is the right fit:

1.    Is the area an up-and-coming area or still in transition? 

While home prices in a certain area could be relatively low now, there are several factors that could influence that in the future, such as planned upgrades or new amenities. “When looking at the future potential of a neighbourhood, a buyer can start with researching the current home values. Other aspects to consider would include the crime rate in the area, development plans and proposed or new businesses. A real estate professional specialising in the area will be able to provide some of the information, while other information can be obtained from local officials and the deeds office,” says Goslett.

He adds that homes in a neighbourhood which is up-and-coming could prove to be a good investment, provided the buyer gets the required information and has a clear idea of the plans for the area.

2.    What are the schools like in the area?

Goslett says that regardless of whether the buyer is in the life stage of having children or planning to have them in the future, schools largely impact an area’s property price performance.  Neighbourhoods with excellent, high-ranking schools will be sought-after and will tend to maintain higher resale values. School zoning generally only allows children living in proximity to the school to attend, which is why neighbourhoods with good schools experience consistent demand.

3.    What surrounds the area?

A buyer should have an idea of what is important to them and then explore the surrounding of the neighbourhood they are looking to buy in to see whether it matches their criteria. Things to keep in mind are proximity to amenities such as shopping malls, medical facilities, recreational facilities, parks or green spaces and schools. “Aside from the fact that being close to amenities makes life easier and is more practical, these elements also make it easier to meet and interact with people within the community, set up playdates or walk the dog,” says Goslett.

4.    Distance from work

Considering most people commute to and from work on a daily basis, the distance from home to the office is an important aspect to bear in mind. Potential buyers should time the commute by doing a test drive during the time of day they are most likely to go to and from work. “Depending on where the property is situated, it may be a more feasible option for the buyer to explore other means of transport. In addition to offering an alternative to driving, good public transportation near a home can have a positive effect on the property’s value – the introduction of the Gautrain to areas in Pretoria, Sandton and Rosebank is a prime example,” says Goslett.

5.    Is it safe?

Safety and security are a top priority for the majority of South African property buyers. Buyers should consider aspects of the area that make it a safer place to live, such as a neighbourhood watch, well-lit streets, walkways, security systems and little or no signs of vandalism. Goslett says that these are generally signs of a safe neighbourhood.

“When buying a home, its location is a very important factor in the decision. The neighbourhood will largely determine the home’s appreciation value as well as the homeowner’s enjoyment of their time there. Selecting the right neighbourhood is as important for a buyer as is finding a home that fits all of their needs,” Goslett concludes.

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