When moving house, you have the unique chance to create the home of your dreams – find the perfect place to live, set up your living space in a way that matches your practical needs and aesthetic preferences, decorate it to reflect your personal style, and turn it into a happy haven.
Before you can make your new place feel like home, however, you have to find that ideal place where you’ll be able to live happily and comfortably for years to come. And that’s not a simple task – not only do you need to get the right type and size of dwelling for you and your family, but you also need it to be located in the right neighborhood (a safe and prosperous area of the town, close to your workplace, with plenty of local amenities and entertainment options, etc.).
So, even when you find an affordable property that seems to suit your requirements, you still can’t make your final decision – not until you have learnt a bit more about the surroundings. The best way to do so is to walk through the neighborhood, introduce yourself to the current residents, and ask them all kinds of questions that will help you get a complete picture of the place you’re planning to settle in. And even after you have already moved in, it’s still your new neighbors that you should turn to in order to get reliable inside information about your new community and the peculiarities of your new surroundings.
But what questions to ask your neighbors? How to get to know your (potential) new neighborhood really well?
Questions to ask neighbors before buying a house
Whether you’re looking for living accommodations in a particular area (because of its perfect location, social structure, living standards, etc.) or have found a house you like in a neighborhood you know nothing about, you need to learn as much about the place as you can before deciding to put down roots there. And what better way to find out all about the area than to talk to the people who are actually living in it – your potential neighbors?
Here are some good questions to ask about the neighborhood when exploring the area and meeting with locals (after the obvious “How long have you lived here? How do you like the neighborhood?”):
1. Is the neighborhood thriving?
Are there good local services and amenities? Can you find everything you need for your daily life in the vicinity? Are there successful businesses located nearby? Are there new developments? Are the streets clean and well-lit? Are the houses well-kept and attractive? Is the neighborhood lively?
You can see most of these signs of a prosperous neighborhood while walking around, but things are not always what they seem to be – the residents will know better.
2. How safe is the neighborhood?
You can easily find information about the crime rate and the number of traffic accidents in the neighborhood online or from the local police department. However, it is the locals who will help you understand what’s really going on in the neighborhood. Ask them:
- if they feel safe to go out late at night or to let their children play outside without constant supervision;
- if they have security systems and put heavy locks on doors and windows;
- if they hear gunshots every so often or witness frequent fights;
- if they see “suspicious people” around – gangsters, beggars, hookers, etc.
Find out how the neighborhood responds to crimes; how active are the security service; is there a neighborhood watch; are there stray dogs running down the street; and any other small details that can make a big difference when living in the area.
3. What is the commute like?
Even if most of the places you’re going to visit on a daily basis (your and your partner’s workplaces, your children’s schools, your family physician’s office, your bank, your hobby club, your favorite shops, restaurants, etc.) are located within (or close to) the neighborhood, you need to know your transportation options and be familiar with the traffic patterns.
Ask the locals what the traffic is like at rush hour; are there enough parking spaces; what condition the roads are in; what traffic problems occur most often; is there reliable public transport; and anything else that will help you determine how much time you’ll be on the road and how quickly you’ll be able to get around.
4. Is the neighborhood kid-friendly? (if relevant)
If you have children (or plan to have kids soon), you need to make sure that your new neighborhood will offer them a safe environment and plenty of opportunities – good schools, reliable healthcare, abundant green areas, a variety of recreational and hobby activities, friendly and helpful community, etc. To find out if your chosen neighborhood meets all these requirements, you need to talk to the residents:
- Ask about local schools, after-school programs, day-care centers, free kids’ events, nearby parks, playgrounds, favorite hangings spots, popular activities among local children, etc.;
- Find out if the kids in the neighborhood get along or not; if they complain about bullying or threats of violence; if they’re happy in their surroundings or wish to leave the neighborhood as soon as possible;
- Ask if there is a 24-hour pharmacy and a 24-hour supermarket in the area – you never know with kids!
See also: How moving affects children
5. What is the community like?
To find out more about the type of community in the neighborhood and get an idea of the community life, you should ask your potential neighbors:
- whether you can expect events like neighborhood meetings, barbecues, or festivals on the weekends or block parties on a regular basis;
- if people socialize a lot or prefer strict privacy;
- if there are lots of young people, or families with kids, or seniors in the area;
- if most of the residents have pets;
- if many of them regularly attend religious services;
- if it’s peaceful and quiet at night;
- if there are loud parties and lots of noise;
- what the major concerns in the neighborhood are, etc.
6. What do they know about the house you consider buying?
No one knows what’s going on in the property next door better than the neighbors. All you need to do is ask and you’ll learn every little detail that there is to know about the house you consider buying – what kind of people lived there before, how well they kept the property, if there have been any recent accidents (floods, fires, etc.), if the house is rumored to be haunted, and so on and so on. Besides, the neighbors can tell you about any worrying issues all homeowners in the area share – a high water table, root problems, or other hazards.
The answers you get will help you determine whether the neighborhood is going to fit your lifestyle and if you’ll be able to feel “at home” in your new surroundings.
Once you make your decision and buy (or rent) a property, however, you’ll be faced with another challenge – adjusting to your new environment as soon as possible after the relocation. Your new neighbors can be of great help once again – they can not only provide you with plenty of useful information and good advice, but may also become good friends of yours and help you blend in with your new community and fight off loneliness.
Questions to ask new neighbors after the move
Make sure you introduce yourself to the people next door soon after the move and start a friendly conversation about the community life and the peculiarities of the neighborhood. Here are some ideas about what to ask:
- What is there to do in the neighborhood? – Ask your neighbors about local events and activities, hobby clubs and recreation centers, neighborhood happenings and anything else that you may be interested in. Get involved in the community life not only to learn more about your new surroundings, but also to get a sense of belonging and connectedness;
- What are the best places in the vicinity to eat, shop, have fun, relax, etc.? – It’s always good to know where you can get quality services and products, where you can find some peace and quiet, what businesses and places to stay away from, etc.;
- Which are the most popular “spots” in the area? – Find out where the locals like to gather and hang out – favorite restaurants, coffee shops, entertainment locales, shopping centers, parks, and other lively parts of the neighborhood where you can meet new people or just have some good time;
- What not to do in your new surroundings? – You need to know what is frowned upon in your new neighborhood in order to avoid negative attention, at least in the beginning. Besides, you may be able to avoid troubles or even dangerous situations if you listen to your neighbors’ warnings (not to park in a certain area, not to stay in a certain part of the neighborhood after dark, etc.);
- Is there anything you can help with? – You want to be known as a kind, reliable, and valuable member of the community, right?
The truth is you can get to know your new surroundings really well and find your place in your new community quite quickly and easily – as long as you know the right questions to ask neighbors when moving house.