How to Find the Best Neighborhood in the DC Metro Area

Posted by Lise | Filed under: Buyers

You’re not just buying a house — you’re also buying a neighborhood. Sometimes, though, one resident’s “neighborhood glories” are another resident’s “neighborhood drearies.” Some people think that being next to a school is wonderful, but others see a school yard as a potential nuisance.  Is an elementary school more appealing than a high school? How do you feel about Friday night football games under the lights?

1. The time of day when you first lay eyes on a prospective house can affect your impression of the neighborhood, so visit at various hours.

A neighborhood can be totally different at night!  If you go somewhere at 1:30 p.m., it may seem OK, but if you go back at night, it could seem too quiet for your taste or just perfect.  For instance, a two acre home in Great Falls will be a gardener’s paradise at noon and the perfect place to watch the moon rise at night, or you might think that you want to be closer to the city after all.

The same can be said for neighborhood traffic congestion, which can change dramatically at rush hour — or traffic on a Saturday can be a different story than on a Tuesday.  Be sure to look at the neighborhood at times that you will be there.  Is that condo at 555 Massachusetts Avenue on the quiet side of the building with a view of the Capitol? Is it looking down Mass Avenue with a sense of the city’s night life?

2. Neighborhood choice can be a pocketbook issue, and not just because of house prices and property taxes. Commuting costs — of both time and money — are critical.

I’ve had clients say, ‘This house is $10 cheaper on the mortgage (than another house),’ but I’ve had to tell them, “Yes, but this one is going to cost you $80 more in gas.”  Be sure to evaluate all the issues and costs in your decision.  If you work in Herndon, do you want to live in Leesburg or Reston and commute on the Dulles Toll Road? or would you rather live in Herndon too and save the money and the commuting time? All equally valid choices!

3. Ask questions of people who already live there.

The locals usually freely offer their opinions of neighborhood safety, noise, school performance, commuting times, etc., he said.

When you’re dealing with a condo association, go  stand outside the building and wait to chat with somebody who’s just walking around.  If you are really fearless, go around and knock on doors!

Kenwood Forest homeowners can be found on the Crescent Trail, at the movies, or any of a number of restaurants in Bethesda, enjoying their life style.  Feel free to ask them how much they love their neighborhood!  Stroll around the Watergate complex, stop in the shops and the Kennedy Center. Get the feel of the neighborhood and talk to the neighbors!

4. The Internet can be a boon for researching the nitty-gritty.

NeighborhoodScout.com, for example, is a subscription service that offers in-depth looks at such considerations as crime statistics (for 17,000 law-enforcement jurisdictions), school-performance data, and quarterly price-appreciation records of area homes.

It’s customizable: The site can do such things as take the characteristics of a neighborhood that’s familiar to you and approximate similar neighborhoods in other cities. For retirees, it can narrow down neighborhoods that have, say, a large population of educated seniors.

And coming soon, the site says, is a “build your neighborhood” feature in which users enter home-price range, crime-level comfort, preferred school scores, etc., to come up with suggested areas.

The service costs $29.99 a month, or $14.99 a month for a six-month subscription. Or try the free site for crime – www.CrimeReports.com!

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One Response

  1. glenn says:

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    tnx for info!…

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