First Person: Choosing the Right Neighborhood

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After the huge loss we took on our first home, we realized just how important it was to select a home in a neighborhood with great resale value. Sometimes this is easier said than done, since at times, things outside our control can determine the resale value of a home. However, there are certain characteristics of a neighborhood that we found can make it easier to resell at a higher value, and we realized that selecting an area with such amenities could better safeguard our home's value. Having learned from our first home ownership experience, the following are the things that we looked for in an effort to protect the equity in our second home.

Property Values

The value of the particular neighborhood's properties is obviously a huge resale factor we consider now. This of course played a role not only in our decision to leave our old location but in determining our new location. According to Zillow.com, our current neighborhood's average home values fell about 24.2 percent since pre-housing market collapse highs, but have since rebounded 5.1 percent year-over-year. Meanwhile, our previous neighborhood's average home values fell 39 percent from their pre-housing market collapse highs, and are down 0.4 percent year-over-year. This differential is significant and played an important role in our decision to settle in a location where home values are more stable.

School Districts

One of the greatest mistakes when buying our first home was not fully contemplating the effects of the school district on our future plans. The schools in the area were decent up through middle school grade levels, but were terrible moving into high school; therefore we had planned to sell within 10 years of our initial purchase, but the housing market collapse shortened that timeline significantly. We realized during our home sale that not being able to list "top school district" in our write-up certainly wasn't doing our home value any favors. Therefore, when we chose our follow-up home, we ensured that we found a neighborhood in which schools at all levels were highly ranked.

Walkability

Another downside to our first home was the convenience factor. Besides the community center and a few sports fields, there was little in the way to walkable entertainment. This was of course a downside when it came time to sell. The next time around though, we found a location that offered conveniently located amenities including an elementary school, post office, library, restaurants, shops, grocery store, police and fire station, drug store, and similar offerings all within just blocks. Such options give our neighborhood a top-notch "walkability" score, will certainly help maintain our resale value better than our previous home, and will be a great item on our home's description come resale time.

Transportation

Other than being a couple miles from the interstate, our previous location was not what you might call a transportation "hub". The city bus system did run though it, and there was a major thoroughfare to downtown Chicago nearby; but otherwise, there was no real public transportation system conveniently located in our home's immediate proximity.

Considering this aspect when searching for our current home, we chose a location that was only blocks from the commuter rail system. In the Chicagoland area, where travel times on the road can sometimes be counted by hours rather than by miles, this can be a huge selling point and certainly help our eventual resale value.

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