A favorite part of my job is assisting families find the right fit neighborhood for their family. Most families are looking for the best school, shortest commute and want the most house for their money. While all these things are important and should be on your list, I also believe you should make sure your new community shares your values and is the right place to call home for your family.
Here are a few of my tips to take into consideration when looking at neighborhoods:
1. School: Visit the neighborhood school at drop off and pick up time. Talk to families, join in at the playground and review the flyers posted around the school advertising events and activities.
2. Library: Check out the library, kids programs, adult programs and what are the top books being read by adults and in the library sponsored book club.
3. Shopping and Restaurants: Walk around the grocery store, pharmacy (Bartell is the main local chain), Target (if that is a must have store for you), home improvement store and hang out at the local coffee shop. What other retail is around your housing area? How about restaurants and food delivery - what are the neighborhood favorites and does that match with your tastes?
4. Community Center: Is there a neighborhood community center? If yes, the staff will be of great assistance letting you know the services available from kid's classes and camps to adult services and clubs. What about services for the elderly - a great way to see if families stay long term in this neighborhood or if it is more transitional.
5. Neighborhood Make-up: What is the move in rate of new comers verses natives. Is it new housing or older homes that may be passed from generation to generation. There are several Seattle area neighborhoods that have a higher population of long time families and it may be harder to make adult friends when the groups have been established since university days.
6. Playground and Sports Fields: Visit the local playground. Who is supervising the younger kids - parents, babysitters/nannies or is it many used by child care groups? Do most kids walk to the playground or is it a commuter playground with lots of parking? Look at parks, sports fields (if your child loves soccer/baseball are there well maintained fields in the area), what about tennis courts and even dog parks.
7. High School Events: Even if you only have a young child, consider visiting a high school sporting event or arts performance. Your children will be there before you know it and it is great way to get a pulse on the community.
8. Summer Fun - where is it? Is there a neighborhood pool or beach? Is it private or open to the public? Is it important for you to have it biking/walking distance? Where can your kids play outside besides your own yard?
9. Church: If you and your family attend church do not hesitate to stop in and introduce yourself. A great resource to find out if this neighborhood s the right fit for you - as most families attend church within a reasonable distance of their neighborhood.
10: Demographics: Is this a two working parent community or is there a larger population of stay at home parents. Does this matter to you?
11: Gym Membership: If you like to work out at a gym then don't forget to go tour and visit the options. Do they have your favorite classes, what are the fees and facility extras? Try to visit at the same time you like to work out - is it crowded, who are the other members, could this offer an opportunity for you to meet new friends?
I'd love to partner with you and together we will provide your real estate agent with the information needed to identify two to three neighborhoods, and ideally several individual schools that meet the needs of your family.