Learning how to find a good neighborhood to live in – that’s also good for your budget – is just as important as the type of house you’re looking for. But deciding on the right neighborhood doesn’t have to be complicated.
Know Your Current Budget
Before you begin researching neighborhoods, you should have a good understanding of what you can afford. If you don’t already keep a close eye on your spending, take a look at your current monthly expenses and budget.
An easy place to start is tracking all your income and expenses in a spreadsheet over the next month. If you don’t know how much your current lifestyle is costing you, you won’t have a clear picture of what you can afford.
Differences in taxes between states, cities, and counties can be dramatic, largely because of varying tax rates and home values. Differing tax rates by region could mean paying hundreds or thousands more in yearly taxes, which could have a significant impact on your budget.
Higher tax rates aren’t necessarily a bad thing because higher-taxed regions tend to have higher quality and more responsive local services, such as police, fire, parks, and street maintenance. You’ll have to evaluate for yourself whether your prospective neighborhood’s amenities are worth the higher cost.
You should be able to find property tax information on a city or county’s website. The Tax Foundation also provides information on property taxes by region.
Cost of Living
Property taxes are just one part of the expenses you should consider when looking for a good neighborhood to live You’ll also have to consider “cost of living” expenses like travel time, food, utilities, and other things.
People don’t usually think of transportation when they think of major living expenses, but transportation costs can vary widely depending on where you live.
The first thing you’ll have to ask yourself is how far you’ll be traveling to the places you go each day. If you want to live out in the suburbs and your job is in the city, gas and tolls can be pricey – especially in high-tax states..
If you live in the city and want a car, you should consider parking expenses. Car repair expenses can also vary by region. Make sure to factor in all these calculations when deciding on the right neighborhood for you.
Anybody who’s been grocery shopping in a city knows how expensive food can be. Shopping at Whole Foods can leave you with a noticeably smaller balance at the end of the month than shopping at Walmart. So, it’s important to scope out what the local grocery stores are like in the area.
If you like dining out a few times a month, your trendy urban restaurant is going to cost a lot more than a suburban diner. Of course, you can find cheaper restaurants in cities, but in general, you’re going to pay more for dining out than in rural areas.
When it comes to neighborhoods and taxes, property taxes aren’t the full story. For instance, some areas impose local income taxes, while others don’t. Some communities, particularly urban condo complexes and amenity-rich complexes will charge significant homeowners’ association (HOA) fees for common-area maintenance and improvements.
Once you’ve found a good and budget-friendly neighborhood to live, make sure you explore your home financing options from Police Federal Credit Union. We love helping our members and want to make your home buying experience as pleasant as possible. Contact us for more information.