From price to square footage, there are a lot of factors to consider when buying a home. But one of the most important? That’d be the neighborhood.

If you plan to live in the home you’re buying for any amount of time, it’s not just the house itself you need to think about. Your neighborhood – its amenities, residents, safety features and even its location – are going to play a huge role in the life you build in your new place.

Want to make sure you make the right decision? Here’s how to hone in on the best place to buy:

Start with your office and work outward.
No one wants to spend hours commuting to and from work every day, so plot out your office on a map (and your spouse’s) and look for spots that are central or easily accessible to both locations. Take highways and routes into consideration, too. The easier that drive is, the better.

Look up school ratings and property taxes.
Once you’ve shortlisted a few areas that would work for your commute, head to GreatSchools.org and look up school districts in each one. Whether you have kids now or you plan to in the future, ensuring you’re in a good school district is crucial (unless private school is a financial option.)

After you’ve done that, look up the county appraisal district for your top neighborhoods, and see what property taxes you’re looking at. Many home buyers forget to consider these costs when buying a home, only to be shocked at their added tax costs every January.

Take a drive.
The internet is a great place for doing initial research, but it can’t replace a good old, in-person visit. If there are a few places you’re considering, take a drive and cruise the areas. Are there grocery stores nearby? A playground, pool or other amenities? What about the homes? Do they look well-maintained and in good condition? If you see anyone out and about, feel free to stop and ask what they think of the area. Most residents will be surprisingly honest with you if only ask.

Check out crime stats.
Use sites like AreaVibes and NeighborhoodScout to see what sort of crime occurs in the communities you’re considering. High crime rates won’t only hurt your home values (and make it hard to sell later on), but they could also endanger you and your family. You want your purchase to be a good long-term investment – both for your pocketbook and your loved ones’ health and well-being.

Ask your real estate agent.
Real estate agents are very well-versed in their areas. They know the hot spots, the places to get a great deal and the up-and-coming neighborhoods that are on the rise. Talk with your agent about what you’re looking for – both now and in the long haul – and have them point you in the right direction.

Want help choosing the right neighborhood for your new home? Contact The Claus Team now. Our agents are here to guide the way.