Considering a move to the Lake Travis area?
Or maybe you’re a seasoned local who simply wants to move one block over?
Regardless of how far you’re going, you’ve got a lot to think about before you start house-hunting.
Finding the “right” neighborhood for you and your family can be a daunting task and it’s potentially a more important choice than even the house you choose to call home.
From ensuring a solid investment and raising kids, to entertainment walkability or lakefront access, the neighborhood you pick is all about your lifestyle and how long you plan to be in the home.
Ultimately, deciding on an area to settle in is really the starting point on the real-estate road to homeownership — so choose wisely.
1. Education: Why schools matter even if you don’t have kids
There’s a reason good schools should be on everyone’s list, and it isn’t just about whether or not you plan to grow a family.
A good school district will play a critical role in the value of your home — as no matter how nice it is, plenty of potential buyers will take a pass if the assigned school’s don’t add up.
In fact, the majority of buyers with children will scroll down your home’s listing page to check out the school rating, before even looking at photos.
For smart buyers, there’s just no sense in falling in love with a house in an undesirable district. This is because in addition to those with kiddos in tow, even buyers without children know that home values skyrocket if a school produces higher test scores constantly.
In addition to property value, often times good schools are indicative of involved neighborhoods. So even if you don’t plan for a family, the school system is something to consider when thinking about the type of neighbors you hope for.
The good news?
If you’re looking to move into or around the Lake Travis area, schools won’t be a problem. With the very best from multiple top-notch ISD’s mingling, this location is an easy sell (and buy) for anyone thinking about great education and a solid investment.
Looking elsewhere in Texas or at an entirely new state altogether?
No worries, just be sure to do your homework on this most key aspect.
2. Atmosphere & Environment: Won’t you be my neighbor?
Since we’ve mentioned them, let’s talk about neighbors for a minute.
The feel and look of a neighborhood is critical to its value, but it’s also (and more importantly) going to be critical to how you feel in your home. Things like pride of ownership, safety and general friendliness go a long way towards making a house a home, and a neighborhood the place for you.
If manicured yards, a smile from Joe three doors down, and quiet are key — the suburbs may be just the ticket.
If you prefer to keep to yourself and don’t own a lawnmower (and have no intentions of getting one), then something low maintenance in or around a city may be a better fit.
A good step toward choosing where to live lies in getting familiar with many different areas, so that come time to chat with a realtor, you have a real idea of what you’re looking for.
Taking drives through neighborhoods (at all times of day & night) is essential to truly knowing them.
And though advice and word of mouth can really help, sometimes you have to kindly blow off those who preach and praise one area, while entirely slamming another.
Make your own choice and remember that everyone sees things differently — it’s wisest to experience a place for yourself and make your own observations about whether or not it’s a fit for your family.
Buying a home is oddly a lot like having a baby; everyone and their mother has a horror story or an uninvited opinion that they are only too thrilled to share, over and over. So get out there and explore for yourself.
3. Accessibility (or lack thereof) & Amenities
It’s really pretty simple — do you want to be in the thick of the action, 5 minutes from everything with gym two blocks down, or on an acre of trees overlooking vast space with trips to the store that look more like a trek?
If you’ve always wanted land, looking in areas of dense population make little sense and likewise, if cultural stimulation is vital — don’t waste your time (or your realtor’s) house hunting in the boonies.
Identifying early on what is important to you with regards to privacy, space and activities will go a long way to zeroing in on the map where you want to be.
One big factor to also consider here is commute time and as we all know, traffic can get out of control in a hurry. Some of us pleasantly space out to NPR or, finally alone having left kin at home, belt out a song or 12 over the course of an hour’s drive. Then there are the rest of us who dread the bumper to bumper more than eye surgery.
If you fall into that latter group, do yourself a favor and check traffic at peak times for any area that catches your eye (pun accidental, though giddily left as is).
And while you’re at it, consider the future for your chosen abode and surrounding areas.
While Lake Travis neighborhoods and Austin metro in general, boast some decent zoning laws, cities like Houston are pretty lax with who can build what and where.
Regardless of where you relocate, make sure you reach out to the city and find out what if any building plans are in the future near where you plan to buy. Unless of course living next to a roller coaster is your thing — no judgment … well ok, maybe a smidge.
4. Expenses: There’s more to mortgage than meets the eye
It’s amazing how many tools are available to calculate one’s potential mortgage, but do take them with a grain of salt or throw them out altogether.
Until you’ve spoken with a lender seriously (which is the very first thing you did cause your one smart home buyer!), these “calculators,” should be taken as a very base guideline.
In addition to that actual house payment, taxes need to be considered and they can vary widely — in fact, they may make the difference between getting into one neighborhood over another, as they can seriously change your monthly payment.
Your lender will also factor in any Home Owner Association fee’s associated with a given property, and that addition to your mortgage can be a real killer.
If amenities like a pool, splash pad, nice park and maybe a golf course are important to you, consider those costs early on when looking at that dream neighborhood.
And if those HOA’s forbid cars from being parked on the street and you have three teenagers — good luck. Your family may end up paying fees to park elsewhere, or shouldering fines on a regular basis. Worst case you’ll be forced into driving them everywhere, the greatest cost of all being your sanity.
Do the legwork
Whether moving across the country or looking at a Lake Travis area neighborhoods, it pays to do some legwork.
Of course, let’s be honest here — if you are lucky enough to be house hunting in the Texas Hill Country, you’ll have little trouble finding that perfect neighborhood.
With outstanding schools, fantastic activities and an all-around easy going vibe, the Lake Travis Lifestyle offers something for everyone.
Post image via Creative Commons, Steve Kaminski on Flickr.