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Get to know your house: What to know about your neighborhood

illustration of a home, a magnifying glass and stylized neighborhood blocks

    You’ve found it: The perfect house. It’s got that cute front porch and a fenced-in backyard. The rooms are a great size, and the basement is perfect for entertaining. What you don’t realize is the house rattles every time the train goes by. And your next-door neighbor is known for being a troublemaker.  

    Before you sign on the dotted line for that “dream home,” make sure it’s not really a nightmare. Beyond not wanting to regret such a major purchase, you don’t want to risk having issues with selling it or have homeowners insurance headaches.

    Here are some tips for getting to know your new neighborhood:

     

    Seek out insurance savings
    Your homeowners insurance is affected by more than just what’s inside your home. In fact, your quote could change based on what’s around your neighborhood. 

    For example, if your home is near a fire department and/or a fire hydrant, you might get a discount on your policy. This is because the faster a fire truck can get to your house (and access a hydrant), the less damage your house will endure. The same idea goes for being near a police station: If officers are only a few minutes away, they’ll have a better chance of thwarting a home-related crime. 

    Other ways your community can help with insurance savings include living on a well-lit street, residing in a gated community and having a neighborhood watch group.

     

     

    Avoid policy surprises 
    You’ll want to ensure that your home is insured against weather events that are common in your area, such as floods, fires or hurricanes. This often requires having supplemental insurance, which is something you’ll need to purchase before any destruction occurs. 

    Also, check out your prospective home’s flood zone, since these zones can vary by neighborhood (or even by block). You can determine your flood zone via FEMA’s Flood MAP Service Center. Living in a high-risk flood area means you may be required to purchase flood insurance, which automatically increases the cost of your homeowners insurance.

     

    Visit in the morning and the night
    What might seem like a peaceful, serene block during the day could transform into a noisy, rowdy street at night. That’s why it’s important to visit the prospective home during different hours of the day, as well as the weekdays and weekends. That way there won’t be any unwelcome surprises the first night in your new home.

     

    Get the news from your neighbors
    If you really want to know what it’s like to live in your new area, check in with the people who live there already. While you don’t need to go door to door, if you’re visiting the home and see a neighbor mowing their lawn, don’t be afraid to ask some questions. You can also dig up some digital dirt via local Facebook groups or sites such as Nextdoor.

     

    Check out the city’s stats
    If you’re unfamiliar with the city or town where you’re looking to buy a home, there is some vital information you’ll want to know. You can find most of it online:

    • Crime rate: Check out sites such as Neighborhood Scout and CityProtect to get statistics on the types and amount of crime nearby.
    • Taxes: The home price might seem pretty reasonable, but don’t forget to factor in sales and property tax rates. That could dramatically increase the amount of money you’ll need to invest in the home. Real estate brokerage sites such as Redfin and Zillow usually list the home’s most recent property tax rate. If you’re unaware of state or local taxes, you can find that info on sites like TaxJar.com and TaxFoundation.org.
    • Schools: Whether or not you have kids, or are planning to one day, it’s still a good idea to know about the school district because it could impact resale value. The website Niche provides a good overview of rankings, awards and programs offered for schools across the country.

    Give it a Google
    To avoid the aforementioned “house rattling when train goes by” situation, you’ll want to know what’s near your prospective home. Try using Google Maps or Google Street View to determine potentially unpleasant things like whether the home is near railroad tracks or a highway, but also to see its proximity to restaurants, parks and other places to which you’d like easy access.

    Now that you know what to look out for when buying a new home, hopefully you’ll be able to relax on that porch with peace of mind. 

    Learn more about how your home can impact your insurance policy here.

    The ZebraResource Center