Step 4: Choosing a Location for Your Rental Home

It seems like it should be a simple enough question to answer: where do you want to live? But finding the right location isn’t always easy, especially if you’re moving to an unfamiliar place. What should you look for in a neighborhood? Are the pricier or trendier neighborhoods worth the higher cost? What if you sign a one-year lease only to realize your commute is terrible? Let’s explore ways to find a neighborhood that fits your needs and your budget.

Look at Your Current Neighborhood

The best place to start looking for a new location is in your back yard. What do you like about your current neighborhood? What things would you change? For example, maybe you like that your neighborhood has sidewalks, is near a park, is within walking distance of several great restaurants or shops, is very pet-friendly, has a great sense of community — write down whatever makes you happy about your current location. Next, make a list of everything you don’t like about your current neighborhood. Maybe it’s too noisy or your commute to work is complicated or long. Perhaps there’s no off-street parking or the homes are too close together. Note everything that annoys you, even the small things, like the neighbor who chooses 6:30 a.m. every Sunday to mow the lawn.

While it may seem like a great idea to find a neighborhood that’s the complete opposite of the one you’re in now, don’t make too drastic a change or you may not feel comfortable in your new surroundings. Instead, find a neighborhood that has at least a few of the traits you enjoy about your current community.

Next, look for patterns in your lists. If all the things you like about your current neighborhood have to do with nearby restaurants, bars, and entertainment venues, you might want to look at communities closer to the city center. If parks, wooded areas, wildlife, and a quiet atmosphere top your list, you might prefer a rural location.

Consider Your Lifestyle

Do you have a specific hobby or interest? Do you need to be close to a university or in an area with a great elementary school? You want your neighborhood to reflect your lifestyle. If you are an avid hiker, finding a neighborhood near a forest with trails might be ideal. If you enjoy bicycling to work, you might want a neighborhood with bike lanes. If you work from home, you might prefer a community that’s active during the day with plenty of other at-home residents, but if you work nights, you might prefer a community that’s quiet and somewhat deserted during the day.

Are you an introvert or an extrovert? As an extrovert, you might want a lively, energetic neighborhood where the neighbors regularly get together for block parties and community events. Conversely, as an introvert, you might prefer a more peaceful, subdued neighborhood with residents who keep to themselves.

To find out if a neighborhood fits your needs, do a little research. Look for a neighborhood website or browse social media pages to see what (if any) activities the community provides and the types of interactions the residents have with each other. Read neighborhood information on Homes.com and ask any friends or family members near the area what it’s like. Online forums can also answer your questions about a location.

Imagine Your Daily Routine

Try to picture what your average day would look like if you lived in the neighborhood. Try commuting to work from the neighborhood to get a sense of traffic patterns and any available mass transit options. How much time would your daily commute take? If you’ll be dropping your child off at daycare or school, how far out of the way is it? Where can you stop for your morning coffee? Do the same thing in reverse at the end of the day. Take note of any routine stops you’ll make. Are there gas stations on your route? Places to grab dinner?

Communities might look very different depending on the time of day, so try to visit during the work week, on the weekend, and in the late evening. This will give you a good idea of what life will be like if you become one of the residents.

What to Look Out for When Choosing a Neighborhood

Now that you know what to look for in a neighborhood, what are some of the things to watch out for? While every community is different and you’ll want to do your research for any area you’re considering, be aware of the following:

  1. The topography. If you live in a region with heavy snow or ice, how difficult will it be to get out of that hilly neighborhood in the winter? If you’re looking in an area near water, does the community sit so low that flooding could be an issue?
  2. Nearby industrial plants, pollutants, or any hazards that could impact your health.
  3. Poorly maintained roads. Potholes can damage your car, but they could also indicate an unresponsive city or town.
  4. Lots of for sale signs. If a lot of people are moving out of the neighborhood, there could be an underlying issue.
  5. Lack of sidewalks/walking paths. Sidewalks improve safety and mobility for residents, and it’s a good way to get out and meet your neighbors.
  6. If the neighborhood is close to a major airport, railroad tracks, or a busy highway, you might be disturbed by low-flying planes, train whistles, or blaring horns.

Consider Your Architectural Style

Moving is expensive, so try to find a rental you’ll be happy in for a long time. While it isn’t quite as important as your commute times and nearby attractions, the style of the neighborhood will have an impact on your happiness. Do you find the cookie-cutter sameness of the neighborhood bland or charming? Is the historic vibe of the area appealing or would you prefer a more modern community? When you pull into your neighborhood after a long day, you’ll want a neighborhood that’s inspiring and welcoming rather than off-putting, so try to find an area that fits your style.

Once you have several neighborhoods in mind, it’s time to start looking for your rental home. In step five, we’ll review what to look for in a rental and some questions you’ll want to ask potential landlords.