Buying a home involves buying into an entire community. It’s important to make sure your new neighborhood suits your needs and preferences every bit as much as the house you decide to purchase. After all, most houses can be modified, but neighborhoods can’t.

Your buyer’s rep will be able to assist you in many important aspects of your purchase, like locating suitable properties, negotiating, and executing essential transaction details. Along the way, they’ll be able to help answer your questions, with the exception of certain questions concerning neighborhoods.

That’s because real estate professionals must abide by Fair Housing laws, which prohibit housing discrimination. Further, neighborhood preferences are highly subjective and personal. As a buyer, YOU need to decide if a neighborhood feels right for you. Your buyer’s reps can point you to excellent resources for background research, but it’s up to you to interpret that information.

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When investigating a neighborhood, don’t limit your research to formal resources. You can also pick up valuable insight by striking up casual conversations with various “locals,” including:

Neighbors — Want to get a better idea of who else lives on the block? Look for opportunities to catch other homeowners in their front yard…or knock on their door.

On a bus/train— If you’ll be using public transit, try taking a “test drive” that includes casual conversation with other commuters.

Stores — Grocery store clerks usually have a few minutes to chat while scanning your purchases. Small independent shop owners may have a particularly good pulse on the community.

Waiting in line — Instead of pulling out your smartphone, pose a couple friendly questions to other people waiting to order at a fast-food restaurant, in a checkout line, etc.

Restaurants — Try a few sit-down restaurants to find new favorite eating-out places while also asking your server about the area.

Coffee shops — Other patrons may be happy to take a few minutes to chat about what they like most about the community.

Schools — Talk to other parents waiting for their kids at the end of the day or chat with a crossing guard.

Library — Ask the person at the reference desk about the community. In addition to sharing his/her personal perspectives, they may be able to point you to additional valuable resources.

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