Buying a Home. A Community. A Lifestyle.

We often talk about helping buyers Find The Best Nest.  

bird-housesBut, we feel strongly that it’s more than just a catchy headline.  It’s about helping our buyer clients find the best home, neighborhood, community and lifestyle.  A great article by Terri Engels in RIS Media’s Housecall had some very good tips worth sharing — with some additional commentary in red!

Whether you are looking for a hip enclave of bars or a quiet suburban street filled with families for your kids to play with, choosing a new neighborhood requires a lot of consideration.  There are many things to think about when making the leap to new surroundings and working with a qualified REALTOR is an important step in the process.  From creating a helpful checklist of must-haves, to uncovering crime statistics, the more information you can ascertain about a neighborhood, the better.  And, a great agent is an excellent resource to help you find information and evaluate it.

Step 1: Assess your needs.  First, assess what you and your family want out of a neighborhood. Start by making a list of must-haves, nice-to-haves and won’t-haves. The must-haves and won’t-haves should be nonnegotiable, but the nice-to-haves can be where you compromise. Create these lists together before you even look at new neighborhoods so everyone is clear on each other’s preferences from the start.  One additional thought on this point: Think beyond the house (bedrooms, bathroom, garage, basement, yard, etc) and think about the neighborhood and community (schools, walkability, parks, amenities, community pool, public transportation, restaurants, etc).  You can get to the specifics on the house itself later — what you’re really trying to get to at this point is the communities where you will look for homes. 

Step 2: Lifestyle matching.  A small town may sound appealing when you want a break from the city, but if you’re thinking about a neighborhood that varies greatly from where you currently are, take a look at your lifestyle before you make any decisions.

If you’re the kind of person who buys groceries once a week, then being in a remote neighborhood shouldn’t be too much of a problem. But, if you regularly drop in to the store, make sure your new neighborhood has one. Similarly, if you enjoy a quiet way of life, ensure there aren’t too many late night bars around. On the other hand, if you are looking for a busy and stylish lifestyle, you might want to think about what neighborhoods offer a busy central business district.  One common thing that buyers often don’t think about, particularly in Atlanta’s intown neighborhoods, is the “hustle and bustle” that often goes along with “walkability”.  So, being near the Atlanta Beltline is great, but do you want to live “right by the Atlanta Beltline” and deal with tons of pedestrian traffic, possible parking issues on your street, stores and coffee shops nearby being crowded, etc.  Giving serious thought to what your ideal lifestyle is like on a daily basis is important.

Step 3: Think about budgets.  You may have found the perfect neighborhood for you but can you afford the properties in it? The perfect neighborhood won’t remain perfect if you don’t have the cash to enjoy it.  It’s also worth considering if a new area is going to cause additional expenses.  If it’s far from your workplace, work out how much of a dent the extra gas will put in your wallet. Also, think about where you need to get to and how often. You may dream of a peaceful town but if you’re going to have to drive one hour every week to the nearest store then take that added cost into account.  This is where your agent can really help — an experienced intown REALTOR will be able to quickly determine neighborhoods and communities that will offer the lifestyle you’re looking for, within your budget. If you’re one of those people that has champagne taste on a beer budget, your agent can help you figure out where would be best to make compromises.  Setting up home searches early in the process (like 6-12 months before you think you will purchase) and doing neighborhood research is vital to the process.

Step 4: Think ahead.  So you have your list, you’ve thought about a neighborhood that would suit your lifestyle, and you have a budget in mind. Now, you need to think ahead and work out if any of this is going to change.  Perhaps you’re planning to start a family in the next few years or your kids might be ready to move out. Consider if the neighborhood would have enough amenities to entertain a teenager or if the town’s nightlife will make it too noisy when you have young children. Nobody can predict the future but it’s worth thinking about it before you make any major decisions.  While this general point is on target, we think it’s worth noting that a home purchase doesn’t have to be where you want to live for the next 20 years.  Particularly for first time home buyers, one of the most common issues we see, is thinking in terms of buying a home their going to grow into — their “20-year” house.  Often, budgets don’t allow for this and looking for a community that meets your lifestyle needs for the next 5 years is often just fine.

Step 5: Look into safety.  By now you should be narrowing down your selection of potential neighborhoods so now is the time to research the crime rate of an area. If it’s high then perhaps consider another neighborhood. If it’s average, don’t rule out the area because it’s not perfect. Unfortunately, crime can appear anywhere but the good news is neighborhoods can change their reputation.  One of the most common questions buyers seem to ask is, “Is this neighborhood safe?”  That’s a hard question to answer, because “safe” means different things to different people.  But, your agent should be able to point you in the right direction to find crime statistics so you can do your homework and make sure you are comfortable.  Generally speaking, don’t rely solely on social media and neighborhood message boards as your primary source of information, as they can be biased.  

Step 6: Do your research.  Now it’s time to think about the little details. Go and visit your prospective neighborhood at different times of the day to get an all-round perspective. You may discover rush hour traffic is terrible or that you can hear trains passing early in the morning. Go on a hunt for For Sale signs; if there’s a few in the same area, then find out why. This could be a warning sign.  We love all these tips and it always amazes me how many buyers neglect this step.  We would add that buyers should drive down the street of any home they are considering purchasing at different times of day — a lot of information about a street and community can be discovered!

Step 7: Talk to neighbors.  You may have found the dream neighborhood but bad neighbors could ruin that. There are some telling ways you can spot a bad neighbor, one way is to look out for how they keep their house and yard.  Even if you don’t suspect your neighbors will be a problem, it may be worth chatting with them to get their thoughts on the neighborhood. After all, they will know it better than any guide.  We LOVE this tip — ask them how they like the neighborhood, do they feel safe, what do they like best, how long have they lived there.  It’s great information and you may have already made a friend in your new neighborhood!

Step 8: Don’t forget about the aesthetics.  This guide has given you a lot of steps to think about but finally, ask yourself if you actually like the neighborhood. It’s easy to get hung up on budgets, neighbors and local schools, so take a moment and think about the feeling you get from the place. Don’t worry about being petty.  What does your gut tell you? The little things will make a huge difference.  Some buyers find their home and neighborhood quickly.  Others seem to take much longer. And, that’s fine — your gut instinct can point you in the direction of a home and community you love right away.  Or, sometimes buyers need to look a while before they “get that feeling” about a home.  Your REALTOR should be patient and not rush you, but also be able to help you sort through what is good “gut instinct” vs. possibly being unrealistic about what you’ll find.

At Red Robin REALTORS®, we find that our job in working with buyers (and sellers) is most often a consultative role, first and foremost.  The mechanics of showing homes and negotiating contracts are very important, of course.  But, helping a buyer Find the Best Nest, is a partnership that our agents don’t take lightly!

12208511_10207722327755466_7139571075147454453_nIf you’re thinking of purchasing a home in the next year, let’s get started on your early research now!  Contact Melissa Wakamo, Principal Broker at Red Robin REALTORS® today to find out more.  Melissa and her team of agents specialize in working with buyers and sellers in Atlanta’s intown neighborhoods.

posted: Oct 20, 2016 | No Responses

Posted by:  Melissa Wakamo

When Melissa Wakamo began her real estate career in 2004, her goal was to focus on her immediate area and get to know her neighbors. "I've had a lot of fun over the years helping my neighbors sell their homes and helping newcomers become a part of our community."

Melissa quickly became one of metro Atlanta's top producing agents and consistently performed in the top 1 of all Atlanta agents. By 2009, Melissa's real estate team had grown to include several agents and support staff, dedicated to providing exceptional service to buyers and sellers in Atlanta's intown neighborhoods.

In 2010, Melissa transitioned Red Robin REALTORS® into an independently owned boutique brokerage. Even in the tough real estate market during that time, Red Robin REALTORS® continued to outperform other small brokerages and was able to help buyers and sellers adapt to the rapid changes in the market.

Today, Melissa provides strategic oversight for Red Robin REALTORS®- ensuring that the brokerage maintains its focus and commitment to the intown market. Melissa also provides an exceptional training opportunity for agents. Under a philosophy that exceptional agents produce exceptional results, Melissa shares her marketing and business expertise with agents through the Red Robin Academy.

Melissa's active participation in various neighborhood organizations and charitable efforts, as well as her passion for antiques, cooking, and gardening, keep her busy and in touch with the community.

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