Guest blog by Author Casey Windsong

Job offers, marital status changes, children being born—there are plenty for a family to pack up their belongings and move. And about one in five end up looking for a new home in any given year.

Smart movers, though, concentrate on more than just finding the right house. They know that where you move is a big part of the crucial decision. Sometimes, that “dream house” later proves to be a nightmare.

Beyond the obvious considerations—size and layout of the home and property, price, location, structural soundness and such—one giant piece of the puzzle is easy to misread or under-evaluate.

Location isn’t everything, but it sure helps

Here are some tips for considering that wildcard called “Neighborhood.”

  • Online sources may be a good first step, but they won’t tell you everything you need to know. They tend to paint a broad picture, but you need specific information about more than just the zip code. You want to know about the street and block you are considering. Use the internet as one of your evaluation tools, but don’t let it be your only tool.
  • Drive in ever-widening circles around the property you are considering, turning your eyes to neighboring homes and yards. Do the residents take pride in their community? Do you see well-kept lawns and buildings that are maintained, or do you see weeds and broken windows? If the situation changes as you drive, how far away do you get before that happens?
  • Stand out front for a while. Walk down the street and around the block. Does anyone approach you? If so, are they looking for a handout or trying to be helpful? Do you see other people out and about at all? When you walk by a home and someone is in the yard or on the porch, do they regard you with suspicion, or do they smile and wave? Use your senses to get a feel for the neighborhood. Would you and your family fit in here?
  • Talk with people you see. Ask if they live nearby and what they think about the area. Knock on the doors of the homes closest to the one you may rent or buy. Ask your potential neighbors about the area, and ask yourself whether you would trust these people with your children or not. Don’t worry about being judgmental—if ever there is a time for looking critically at others, it is now.
  • Go to the police station that serves the area you are considering and ask them about the amount and types of calls they typically get there. This can be an excellent source of information you may not be able to get as readily elsewhere. Give them the address you are looking at, and ask them whether they would consider it a safe location or not.

A mistake here can be expensive

Moving is one of the biggest decisions you make in life. If you buy the wrong car, you can trade it off for another. When you move to a new home, though, the magnitude of the investment puts you in more of a bind. It isn’t as easy to pick up and move as it is to trade cars or even to change jobs.

Take your time. Be careful. Be wise. Look at more than just the house—look at the neighborhood.

(Photo credit: Thank you to Click and

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Author Casey Windsong moved recently–and hopes to stay put for awhile. Casey loves to research and write about home, health and the environment.