Maybe you've already decided on the Sussex County, Delaware town you'll be relocating to – but the research doesn't end there...
There are many factors to consider when choosing where to live; cost of living, your job, cost of real estate, taxes, climate, proximity to your relatives, hospitals, shopping, density, traffic… and the list goes on. But once you have finalized that decision, you need to start looking at what type of community will best suit you. Do your homework before you buy your next home and you'll be happier for it.
Some experts say that choosing the right neighborhood is more important than choosing the right home! The house you buy can always be changed making it what you want. The neighborhood? Not so much.
My advice is to visit the area personally with a REALTOR® or a friend who knows their way around already. They can introduce you to others who have homes in the area and may be able to offer some good observations about the community.
Try to find a variety of people to talk to, but also make sure you speak to at least a few who are in similar situations, i.e. if you're retired, talk to people who moved to the area after they retired; if you have kids, talk to people with kids. If you're single, talk to people are who single, if you like to bike, find someone who bikes, etc. Keep in mind that people who have lived in an area all their lives may have different opinions than people who have recently arrived. It's good to get varied perspectives.
If you don't know anyone in the area where you are looking, ask your REALTOR® to introduce you to some residents, or introduce yourself! I suggest stopping by local businesses, city hall, churches, etc.
One good way to meet the locals – take some time on your own one day to check out the local coffee house. Strike up enough conversations over a cup of java and you’re bound to find a local (or maybe a part-timer). My favorite coffee haunts in Lewes are Café Azafran and Lewes Bake Shoppe but there are many good sandwich shops around. Just lean over to the person on your left or right and start asking questions. You can do it!
In addition to talking to people in the neighborhood, you may be able to find information about the community online. More and more neighborhoods are creating community websites which include Home Owners Association Newsletters, Bylaws, Articles of Incorporation, Covenants, amenities and other useful information about the community.
Questions You Might Ask Prospective Neighbors:
- How did you choose this neighborhood?
- How does it compare with the last place you lived?
- What percentage of the owners lives here year round?
- What are the rules about [fill in the blank with your specific interests- i.e. pets, motorcycles, RVs, fences, sheds, hot tubs, pools, etc.]
- Are there any specific problems [again - fill in the blank - crime, trash pickup, sewage, traffic, etc?] You should also be able to get information about crime statistics in the area from the local police dept.
- If there is a home owners association, ask the residents how they feel about the board. Are they aggressive, apathetic, or fair and balanced?
- If you could improve one thing about the neighborhood, what would it be?
- Do you know of any future development plans that might affect residents here?
- What's the traffic like during rush hour, weekends, summers, etc.
- If you have kids, ask about the schools, recreational opportunities, safety, etc.
In addition to the inside scoop you’ll receive from asking around and talking to the locals, you'll also be establishing contacts in the area and maybe even making some new friends!