House Hunting: Beyond Four Walls - The Key to Finding Your Dream Home Community

Valerie Mattei  |  February 23, 2024

House Hunting: Beyond Four Walls - The Key to Finding Your Dream Home Community

🏘 When I bought my first home in 2008 I was nervous about finding something that would fit my needs given my very low starter price point. Buying a home was especially daunting during a housing market downturn while I was living on an entry-level teacher's salary. I remember touring home after home, mostly condos, townhouses and fixer-uppers, thinking, “Is this where I see myself for the next five or more years?” I knew that wherever I ended up, it needed to be a place and a community that fit my needs. I was young, but thinking about starting a family. I had two active dogs that needed space. I wanted to be walking distance to some amenities, if possible. Safety was big on my list. I had just moved back home to the Bay Area from Sacramento, and although I loved my time out there, my rental was in an area that had quite a bit of crime. As I continued to look at available options in my very tight budget, the more I came to the realization that not only was I purchasing the home, but also the surrounding neighborhood and community. Naturally, I started to make concessions about the actual home in order to be in a neighborhood that fit my life and needs. 

🏭 I randomly stumbled across a very cute, albeit small and compact, townhouse. Two bedrooms, one and half bathrooms, washer/dryer, and (gasp) a yard for my dogs. It was perfect, for me and what I wanted. The real kicker, it was on the block I grew up on, next door to my great aunt’s house, and the back of the townhouse complex backed up to my parent’s yard. After being away from my family for a long time, the idea of moving back into my neighborhood was very appealing. I also knew I could walk to downtown- coffee, movies, restaurants, and parks. The train station was a short walk away, making for easy access to Giants games. It checked every box for my needs. I put in an offer, and after some back and forth, it was mine. I ended up bringing my daughter home from the hospital to this townhouse. 

πŸš„πŸ›£πŸš— It should be noted that, although the community was perfect for me, it certainly wouldn’t have been a good fit for everyone. It was very close to a busy freeway, the train made itself known nightly, I had to join the HOA, and it was in a bustling area which caused traffic in the neighborhood. The townhouse itself had issues- the windows were old, the roof needed to be replaced, and the fence was being held up by ivy (and probably the rats living in there). 

I really had to think about where I was going to be and what would be surrounding me while I lived there. As I’ve gone on to purchase a few homes after this, I firmly believe buyers have to be able to envision themselves not just in the house, but on that street, in that building, or near that specific store or restaurant.  

πŸ€” Questions buyers should ask themselves about the community while house hunting:

  • Do I want to be close to amenities? Or- Am I ok with being further away from services?
  • Do I care about walkability? 
  • What access to freeways or main thoroughfares do I need, if any? (maybe you work remotely and commuting is a non-issue)
  • Is it important for me to be close to family and friends? Or - Does proximity to friends and family not make a difference for this purchase? 
  • What activities or hobbies are supported by the community that are important for me- Softball league? Dog parks? Running paths? Sewing club? Bowling nights?
  • Is accessibility to social areas (bars, restaurants, clubs) important to your lifestyle? Or -  Do I not care about being near these establishments? 
  • What is my noise tolerance level? How will I handle general neighborhood noise?
  • Do I want a more rural or suburban area? Or- Am I looking to be in a metropolitan area with a lot of action? 
  • Do I need to be close to medical facilities? 
  • What’s the school district like? Does this matter for me or my family? 
  • Where is the nearest grocery store? Do I even cook to make this an issue? 
  • Is there an HOA? Am I amenable to an HOA?

Mainly, does this community fit best with my desired lifestyle? 🏞

🏑 For anyone embarking on the journey of buying a house, I encourage buyers to ask critical questions about what you truly desire in a community. From walkability to proximity to amenities, from the character of the neighborhood to its noise level, consider every aspect that will shape your daily life. The checklist provided serves as a valuable guide, helping you evaluate whether a particular community aligns with your unique needs and preferences. In the end, finding the right community isn't just about finding a house; it's about finding a place where you can thrive, grow, and truly feel at home. πŸ”‘


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