How to Choose the Community That’s Right for You

Featured Image
A couple and their dog walking through their neighbourhood in the fall

You’ve made the decision to buy a home, and you want it to be everything you could imagine.

But it isn’t simply the property itself. You also need to think about the community and how both fit together to check your “most wanted” boxes.

Real estate’s buzzwords are “location, location, location.” That should also be key in your search for your perfect home—not only the location of your home, but also being in an area that has the traits you desire, near you and for you.

Here are some questions to ask yourself as you start the process.

Where is my life at?

A family will have different wants and needs from a single person or a couple without children. For a family, location of schools, recreation, stores, and a family-oriented community may be more important than nearness to restaurants and entertainment.

Whether you are planning for the short term or for your forever home, these details should be top of mind.

What type of home do I want?

Do you want an apartment-style condo, a townhouse, or a house with a yard and garage? How many bedrooms and bathrooms? What do you want to do with your house? Do you like to entertain? Do crafts or hobbies? Answering these questions will help you better define what you are looking for.

How much can I afford?

No matter what your income, there is always a limit to what you can afford without becoming “house poor.” Talk with your financial institution or a mortgage consultant to find out what size of mortgage you can qualify for.

With real estate in a constant state of flux, it’s also good to research current prices, the length of time homes are for sale, and local housing price trends. YEGisHome is a useful resource to compare home types and sizes, communities, amenities, and other factors that help you find your perfect fit.

What does my dream community look like?

Every one of us has that “perfect, ideal place” in our minds. Ask yourself, “What do I want in the place I am going to live?”

A long row of tall, leafy trees on either side of a wide residential street

The area is as important as the building you live in. Do you prefer city or town? Rural or urban? Suburbs or downtown? Do you want quiet streets or a busy, active area? Do you need the ability to walk to amenities like shopping, schools, recreation and restaurants?

How about older neighbourhood or newer development? Long or short commute times? Accessibility to public transit? If you’re moving within the same city, you may already have some ideas on where you want to be.

Make a list of communities that you think best match your list of wants, use tools like neighbourhood profiles or maps, or look up communities to get more information on property listings, local schools, crime statistics and safety, parks and recreation, local amenities and lifestyle, and walkability and transportation.

Once you’ve done the research, visit those neighborhoods that made the first cut, in person, at different times of the day and night. There’s no better way to paint a picture of your life in your new community than by visiting it and putting your investigative skills to work.

What is your first impression?

Walk or drive through the community, taking time to look around and make notes about what you see and hear, distances between key points, and, just as importantly, how you feel during your tour. Here are some ideas for things to think about.

  • Are the houses well maintained?
  • Are the streets inviting and well-kept?
  • What sounds and smells are there?
  • Do you see your prospective neighbours out and about? Or are the streets and parkways empty?
  • Are the amenities you are looking for nearby and convenient to access?
  • Think about your current daily or weekly routine. Do the community amenities fit with your lifestyle?
  • How does it fit with your “dream community” vision?
  • Can you see yourself in the neighbourhood?

Are there any warning signs?

Be on the lookout for signs that safety may be a factor: abandoned buildings, vandalism or graffiti, unkempt lots, crumbling sidewalks or streets, or many “For Sale” or “For Rent” signs. For a more comprehensive review, the Edmonton Police Service has an interactive map that details crime statistics by neighbourhood.

Does the community look different depending on time of day?

Visiting at different times will help you get a feel for activity levels and help determine your fit. Do you see people out and about in the morning, afternoon, and evening? Are the sidewalks cleaned in the winter? Are the lawns cut and cared for in summer? Are the streets well-lit at night?

A sunlit block party on a residential street, including a long table loaded with food and a dozen people gathered around

What do your future neighbours say?

As you go through the community, stop people you see and ask them how they like the area. Ask the grocery store clerk about the “regulars” or the parents in the play park. They will most often be pleased to talk about their community and why they like it, or they may “dish the dirt” that makes you rethink your ranking.

Now make it happen!

Choosing a new place to live encompasses many factors, all competing for your attention. In order to be successful, you must determine what is most important to you and your family, do your homework, and be vigilant in your search until you find the right place for you to live.

Working with a REALTOR® adds resources to your search and helps you in the process of evaluating and reviewing homes that meet your needs… but that’s for another article.

Happy home hunting!