Why your Home Search Needs to Include a Neighborhood Search

Why your Home Search Needs to Include a Neighborhood Search

  • Elisabeth Hay
  • 04/6/23

Like most would-be Hill Country home buyers, you've spent countless hours thinking about your next home. You've undoubtedly laid out a few things to consider or drawn up a list of wants and needs.

But how much time have you devoted to the neighborhood where you want to buy a home? Or the larger surrounding community where you're focusing your search?

Probably less than you think.

Location is one of the single most important aspects of purchasing a home. While many buyers recognize that fact, the neighborhood takes a back seat amidst the excitement of acquiring a house.

There's a common misconception that if you find a great house, it will be located in a great neighborhood. In our experience, we've seen the opposite to be true. Focus on identifying an outstanding neighborhood, and you'll have plenty of equally exceptional homes from which to choose.

All it requires is taking more than a cursory look at where you want to be.

Below, we explore why your home search needs to include a neighborhood search, including a few extra tips to ensure your new place is also in the right place.


Photo courtesy of Unsplash

For homebuyers with school-age children, identifying a neighborhood within a great school district ranks at the top of their wish list. It may even supersede what they want from home. For those without kids or no immediate need to access public schools, proximity remains essential.

Homes and neighborhoods that feed into high-achieving public schools retain value far better than those that don't. Homes prices remain consistent, and when the value does change, it's more often than increasing—even in slower real estate markets.

The neighborhoods themselves are far more stable, too. Those who move into a good school district rarely want to move out, especially if they want a child to attend a specific school.

Throughout your neighborhood search, spend time researching the districts in areas you want to live. Several online resources are available to help, including niche.com and greatschools.org. Look for those with exemplary school ratings, low teacher-student ratios, and high test scores or student achievement levels.

You can also lean on your realtor for direct local knowledge of which schools stand out and contact a district directly for more information.

Accessibility and convenience

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More than any other item on this list, accessibility is often the most challenging variable to define. On its surface, many look at accessibility as how easy or difficult the commute to and from work is.

The reality is that accessibility encompasses so much more than office proximity. The fundamental question is how convenient your new home will be to your current life.

Foremost, we all have a lifestyle routine. Beyond the drive to and from work, we go to the store, drop kids off at school, visit close friends and family, eat out at favorite restaurants, or partake in a favorite hobby, like golfing or riding horses. Effectively, we all go about our daily lives within a specific bubble.

By no means a bad thing; our lifestyles are dictated by our responsibilities, personal and professional relationships, and the things we love to do. The central hub to which everything resolves is most often our home.

When conducting your neighborhood search, consider where a new location might fall within your bubble.

Will it be closer to work but farther from your children's school or vice versa? 
Will you have to go out of your way to fulfill daily needs such as getting gas or groceries or when you head to church each Sunday? Will getting together with your social circle regularly become a more significant burden? Will you require easy access to major roads, highways, or transportation hubs?

The bubble concept applies if you're relocating from out of town or out of state and starting anew. Whatever your hopes for establishing a new lifestyle routine, it's made more accessible within a community that can accommodate your needs.

Rural neighborhoods

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If you plan to trade the relative convenience of the suburbs for a rural home—there's nothing like the freedom of the Texas Hill Country lifestyle. But you will want to know how well your chosen plot of land is served by public utilities, amenities, or emergency services before you occupy it.

If your "neighborhood" means the next house is a few acres or a few miles down the road, confirm the response time for city or county emergency services. You'll also want to verify what utilities are and are not readily available. Depending on how deep into the Hill Country you wish to establish a home, cell, Internet, and cable service can all be hit or miss. You may also have to consider if you're willing to buy a home with a well and septic system.

If you're after land, check the fine print for easements and if it's selling with or without a well, septic system, or connections to the local power grid.


No doubt you've crafted a budget to purchase your future home. What about the costs relating to where that property is located?

At times overlooked in the excitement of a new home search are the costs associated with ongoing ownership. Even if you're closing an all-cash deal, you won't escape the monthly, quarterly, or yearly expenses that come with ownership. These ongoing costs include the following:

  • Insurance
  • Property taxes
  • HOA dues
  • Utilities
  • Internet or cable
  • Local sales tax

Though it's no surprise that insurance, taxes, and utility costs will vary between locations, prices for procuring goods and services also fluctuate. Nominal daily, sure, but expenses like groceries, gas, and the accompanying sales tax can quickly add up if you choose a community where everything comes at a premium.

Find a fantastic house, and there's probably no amount of after-sale, location-based costs that would deter you from it. But, at least knowing what they and their historical trends are will have you better prepared to budget for the expenses.


Photo courtesy of Unsplash

Insurance is a necessary part of home ownership. But do you know how much insurance rates can vary based on the location of a home? In fact, two zip codes in the same county can generate two wildly different insurance quotes.

During your location search, place your preferred neighborhoods—and your short list of homes—under the insurance premium microscope. Do they have a history of suffering through weather-related disasters? Are they in flood-prone areas or fall within a zone that requires you by separate flood insurance?

With this information, you can avoid risk-prone homes or neighborhoods. You can shop your insurance needs around until you find coverage and premiums that are amenable to your needs.

Growth and development

The last item on our neighborhood search list involves growth and development. When defining the best qualities of a neighborhood, an area's future prospects walk a fine line between blessing and curse.

Overall, future growth is positive in the vast majority of communities. The development brings more amenities, improved infrastructure and city service, and greater access to your lifestyle routine. It can also mean a bump in the value of the home you buy.

Of course, there comes a trade-off with development. More people, more construction, and more congestion lead to a decrease in livability, slight or temporary.

Before you buy, take stock of areas where future growth is on the table or already in progress. More often than not, these are desirable or up-and-coming locations to buy. If you're willing to compromise on short-term headaches in return for long-term gain, a home here is an incredibly wise investment.

When you're ready to start your home and neighborhood search, make it a point to drive through your desired locations—in the evening, on the weekends, or during times of transition, such as when schools let out or in the middle of the afternoon commute.

You'll gain invaluable information in discerning the true nature of a neighborhood. That hands-on knowledge will help you choose a house and a location you're proud to call home.

Ready to explore the best of Texas Hill Country real estate? Contact the Elisabeth Hay Group today to start your search. Allow our experienced real estate team to be your guide to homes for sale in Woodcreek or gorgeous Dripping Springs luxury homes.

*Header photo courtesy of Shutterstock

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