How to Assess a New Neighbourhood for Relocation

Jo Boxwell
November 3, 2015

Those relocating from other communities often ask real estate agents for help when it comes to finding out about new neighbourhoods, but agent Keven Braet says even buyers who are planning a move across town may not know as much about other neighbourhoods in their area as they think. It is always a good idea to spend some time assessing a new neighbourhood before buying into it.

Discovering “Problem” Neighbourhoods

To some extent, what qualifies as a “problem” neighbourhood depends on a buyer’s individual preferences and comfort level, but Keven outlines a few neighbourhood characteristics buyers should be wary of. “A lack of home maintenance in the neighbourhood is the number one warning sign that the area could be a problem area. If you’re driving down the street, and you see very little pride of ownership, that’s a bad sign,” he says.

If that same lack of care extends to businesses and public spaces in the neighbourhood, Keven says there could be cause for concern. “Areas with a lot of graffiti and boarded up windows likely don’t have active community associations.” There may also not be as many shops and services available to local residents, compared with other areas.

Public spaces can offer clues about local crime rates and residents’ perception of safety. Does the park nearby have kids playing in it? Disused public spaces often become spaces in which people feel unsafe. If crime is a concern, the RCMP in your area may have statistics available that illustrate the density of crime in different neighbourhoods.

Assessing “Up-and-Coming” Neighbourhoods

Keven says it can be very difficult to predict that tipping point when an area starts to become “up and coming” but is still affordable. Local real estate agents are often the best source of information in these situations because they are on the ground watching the area change.

Keven notes that “it often comes down to more of a sense of a change happening rather than being able to point to solid numbers.”

However, he says there are a few clear indicators that buyers can look for. “An increase in building permits for infill properties is a good sign if multiple developers are seeing an opportunity and investing in the area. If those developers are feeling confident and willing to invest, chances are, the average buyer can feel confident about change in the neighbourhood.”

Finding “Good” Neighbourhoods

Again, individual buyers will have their own perceptions of what constitutes a great neighbourhood, but Keven provides a few general tips. Aside from seeing well-maintained homes and pride of ownership in the area, Keven says high-quality schools are often an indicator of a great neighbourhood. “The Fraser Institute ranks schools in BC, and although their ranking system isn’t perfect, it does give an indication of the quality of education in the area.”

Easy access to facilities such as shopping, entertainment, sports facilities and transit routes are also indicators of a great area.

Do Your Own Research

While a local agent can provide a lot of advice on different neighbourhoods, Keven says it is important for buyers to do their own research as well, because ultimately they are the ones making the investment and they need to be sure the neighbourhood meets their unique needs.

The City can be a useful source of information. “They will be able to outline which services are available in the area, and also if any future developments are planned for that neighbourhood.” Developments can have a big impact on homeowners and the value of their property, so it is definitely something buyers should take the time to research. “If the property backs on to greenbelt, are there plans to develop it? Are parks or new transit routes planned for the area, or is there a proposed dangerous goods route in the works?”

Keven says there is nothing wrong with doing some door knocking to find out what the neighbours think of where they live; in fact, he recommends it to his clients. “Neighbours can be a great source of information, so it’s definitely worth knocking on two or three doors to find out what people think of the area they live in.” Keven also recommends talking to family, friends or colleagues who live in the area. “Their opinions can be very valuable because they know more about your personal preferences.”

Value Your Individual Preferences

Whatever you may read or hear about a particular neighbourhood, Keven says the lines between a good area and a problem area are blurred by individual preferences. “Neighbourhoods are very personality specific. Some like gentrified, cookie cutter neighbourhoods; others prefer areas they perceive to have fewer rules and more diversity. Every buyer needs to decide for themselves which neighbourhoods they will be comfortable living in because nobody else can tell you what you like.”

Jo Boxwell
Jo Boxwell creates content for Team Powerhouse Realty, an independent brokerage based in Prince George, BC. Team Powerhouse Realty is a company of friends that loves helping people buy and sell commercial and residential properties in northern BC.