WHERE SHOULD I LIVE? - The ultimate and most asked question in real estate.
Choosing a home in Hong Kong to settle down in is likely going to be one of the biggest investments of your life when you move to the city, and you owe it to yourself to find out if your new neighbourhood is a match for you. The happiness and excitement of finding the home of your dreams can quickly be dampened if the neighbourhood is not the right fit for you. A home that doesn’t meet your standards and expectations - whether for personal or business investment purposes - can turn a deal sour. Choosing a home is already challenging enough, often filled with stress and uncertainty. There are so many factors to weigh out when it comes to finding the ideal home that is suitable for your lifestyle or real estate investment plans, such as, the price of the home, size, number of bedrooms, bathrooms and other rooms, layout, design, renovation quality, special features and amenities.the list can be never-ending. So much focus is placed on finding the ideal fit within the confines of the home that people often forget to factor in the neighbourhood that the home is located in. Remember: Do not get so distracted only by what lies within the walls of your home of interest that you forget to take in to account everything else that surrounds the property. When you buy a property, you aren’t simply buying a home. You are also buying into a neighbourhood. You could argue that picking the right neighbourhood can often be more important than picking the right house. After all, you can always renovate a home, but you cannot exactly renovate an entire neighbourhood by yourself.
You have to remember that your and/or your future tenants’ experiences in your new property will be moulded and conceptualised by the neighbourhood that you choose. This means that picking “just the right” neighbourhood can sometimes be even tougher than finding the right house. In real estate, so much of the deciding factor is based on location. Even if a home is perfect but situated in a not-so-good neighbourhood, that factor alone can turn many people away.
Read on with us to find out how you can choose and assess the best neighbourhood for you:
What’s the safety of the neighbourhood like?
It’s important to be aware of the safety of your surroundings, especially when it comes to choosing a place to live. After all, the safety of your neighbourhood will impact everything from your sense of happiness and sense of security to your home’s resale value. But crime is a broad term. If a neighbourhood is “unsafe” or has high crime-density, what exactly does that mean? Does it mean that the neighbourhood suffers from high traffic accidents, petty shoplifting by teenagers, car break-ins, or does it have a high murder or rape rate? How do you answer the million-dollar questions, “Is my neighbourhood safe”.
It’s important to get details on local crime, taking into account both the frequency and severity of the crime happenings in the area. You can do this in many ways - by looking for information online, speaking to the neighbourhood’s current and past residents, talking to the local police department in your area to ask about crime statistics and reports …and so on. Talking to residents is the best way to gage if a home and neighbourhood is right for you since they are in the best position to tell you about the characteristics and trends in the area over time, and they can most likely tell you insider information that you would never be able to find out otherwise.
The one thing to remember here is to be careful and cautious. Don’t get so wrapped up in excitement of finding a perfect home that you neglect to take in to consideration where the home is located in. Nobody wants a mugger or sex offender as a neighbour.
Sometimes, at a first brief glance, a neighbourhood may appear safe but it takes more a more in-depth look to figure out how livable and worthy of an investment a location is. It can be easy to focus all of your attention only within the confines of your prospective, but you should also consider the general condition of the streets, sidewalks, parks, and public amenities in your new neighbourhood. Don’t forget that you cannot and should not rush this process. Take the necessary time to research your new neighbourhood properly and throughly. Don’t be afraid to ask questions - everything from things like, “when is trash collection” to street cleaning services and any other general public maintenance services - these are all variables that can affect your property’s value over time. Furthermore, if you are someone who worries about law and order, checking the police records for your neighbourhood of interest can help set your mind at ease and help you choose between and compare different areas.
If you have children, it is even more crucial that you spend ample time investigating the area to learn about its safety, crime rates and more, which leads us to our next question to consider...
Are there any good schools in the neighbourhood?
Good, quality, and reputable schools tend to attract a higher demand for homes, which can affect the value and even safety of the neighbourhood and surrounding properties. If you have children or plan on having children in the near future, the necessity of checking for good schools is one of the foremost obvious ones. Even if you don’t have kids or plan on having kids, you can still benefit from purchasing a home in a reputable school district since home values to be more stable in such areas - leading to a home seller faster should you wish to put it back on the market later. Investigate whether there are any prestigious schools in your new neighbourhood, from local preschools to Universities, higher education and beyond.
How are the traffic patterns from day to night?
A neighbourhood can literally be a day and night difference depending on the time that you frequent it. You want to discover your neighbourhood and your neighbours’ activity levels. What are your next-door neighbours like? What are their hobbies? Some neighbours are completely silent in the day time and become loudly lively at night or vice versa.
If you have children and live next to a drug-dealer, you had better start running the other direction. Do people throw loud parties that rage on until the break of dawn, on weekdays and/or on weekends? Do you hate children but live in a home that is surrounded by children from all four corners? Ideally (especially if a home is for yourself to live), you should choose to live among neighbours who have similar lifestyle patterns like your own. If you prefer serenity and your neighbourhood is in or near a red light district or night-life centric location - well the potential conflict can be disastrous and highly stressful for you. Also take in to consideration the kind of tenants that you may be renting out to if the home is used for property investment and land-lording purposes.
Living in Hong Kong for example, we are faced with road traffic congestions all the time. Some neighbourhoods are obviously better than others. Determine what the traffic patterns are like. Will you experience traffic jams early in the morning, in the mid-afternoon or in the evening? What about on weekends? Are the streets more clear on weekends or do they suffer from heavy traffic congestions in that particular neighbourhood? Don’t forget, higher traffic also means more noise and pollution. The best way to gather this kind of insightful information is to physically spend some time in that neighbourhood yourself. You could stay at a hotel or arrange for a short-term AirBnB rental for a few days to a week if you are dedicated to find out what it is really like to live in the neighbourhood. Or you can visit the area at various different hours throughout the day (early morning, mid-morning, lunch time, mid-afternoon, early evenings, and late night. You can also check out real-time traffic maps via Google Maps or other traffic data apps to review traffic patterns at all hours of the day.
Measure how long it would take you to get the work or school from the neighbourhoods that you are considering. Will you travel via private car or take public transport? Will you be able to walk or bike to your most frequented locations? If you own a car, is there parking in your area? If you like to entertain guests often, how is the guest and street parking situation. What about public transportation offerings? No matter how much you love your new neighbourhood, you will need to commute from point A to point B from time to time, so make sure your transportation needs are up to your needs and standards.
High traffic can also mean less safety - the area may be more prone to accidents. It can also suggest a negative point on the scale of convenience and efficiency. If you are constantly stuck in traffic, how do you expect to get anywhere in a timely fashion? These are all important considerations to keep in mind.
Some final tips...
Although it’s important to focus on finding your dream property, you should also emphasise on the importance of your dream neighbourhood. The most popular areas and neighbourhood that are in the highest demand are always the ones that offer an instant sense of security and community to new-relocators. Here are some further features that will indicate if a neighbourhood is a solid choice for you:
- Aesthetics - How aesthetically pleasing is the neighbourhood? Aesthetics is important because an attractive and well-kept neighbourhood is a good indication that the residents in the neighbourhood care about it. Whereas a neighbourhood that is poorly kept or even trashed at times is generally not a good sign.
- Accessibility to good services and amenities - How convenient is the neighbourhood? Are there any banks, supermarkets, medical clinics, pharmacies, hospitals, police stations, fire stations, any other essentials within close distance? Extra points if these services and amenities are within walking distance. If you value the feeling of community in a neighbourhood, having a home that is within walking distances to daily amenities and services is important. The more your frequent neighbourhood establishments, the easier it is to build a sense of community and familiarity the area and its people.
- Keeping an eye out for Red Flags - Spotting a neighbourhood on the decline is actually quite easy if you know the kind of red flags to look out for. Keep an eye out for things like a new building being built (this mean construction and lots of noise and traffic in the future), rate of turnovers, vacant properties and so on.
Thanks to the wonders of the Internet, you can practically find out everything and anything you want - any information about the neighbourhood and its demographics of people can help you discover if the area is a good fit for you. There’s no such thing as a one size fits all when it comes to real estate. Different people want different things and have different expectations for what they consider to be a suitable neighbourhood. Finding any information you can on the average income, racial diversity, age, and relationship status of your neighbourhood’s demographics can tell you an amazing amount about where you’ll feel at home.
As we have said, its easy to get much too caught up in the surface-level details of a home like its interior design and furnishings. Of course, having top of the line furnishings is great and all, but you can always change and remodel your home to better fit your tastes and standards. You can renovate your rooms, install new appliances, even knock down walls and change the layout and floor plan of a property. Generally speaking, if you don’t like certain aspects of a home, you can usually always alter it. This is not the case with an entire neighbourhood and community. It takes a village to make a neighbourhood, and if you don’t like aspects of your surrounding area and community, well - there’s really not much you can do about it. It’s something you will need to learn to live with if you choose to stick with the location.
When shopping for a home, always pay extra close attention to the neighbourhood. After all, what’s the most important mantra in real estate? “Location, location, location!”.