It's all in the neighborhood

You may think that you need to live in the "best" neighborhoods, but if you make a list of what you really need from an area, you might be surprised at how many communities, many of them with lower pricing, actually fit your minimum requirements.

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    In this June 2012 file photo, the Roundtop Commons affordable housing project in Cortlandt, N.Y. is shown. Different neighborhoods come with different schools, crime rates, and baseline housing prices.
    Jim Fitzgerald/AP
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When Sarah and I were shopping around for our home, we looked at the options available in several different communities.

During our first rounds of looking at housing, we looked in more affluent neighborhoods. The homes were beautiful and the neighborhood seemed very friendly and well-kept, but the prices were often astronomical.

We kept looking. We moved to the other end of the pricing spectrum and looked in areas with great prices on the homes, but there were a lot of signs of poor upkeep and higher crime levels, as well as a poorer school district.

We were diligent, though. We kept looking in different neighborhoods until we hit paydirt – a neighborhood with a home price we could reasonably afford, but well-kept and with a lot of families with children in the neighborhood. It was perfect.

We wanted the more expensive homes. We probably could have managed a mortgage in a nicer neighborhood than we wound up in. However, the place we wound up in was wonderful. It met every need we had and still meets our needs today.

Best of all, because we chose a less-expensive neighborhood that still met our needs, we’ve managed to pay off our home very quickly. The neighborhood made all the difference.

Whether you’re in a home that you’re struggling to afford or you’re just shopping for a home, a less expensive neighborhood that still meets your needs can be the perfect solution to your financial situation.

Your first step should be to define what exactly you need most from your community. If you don’t have children, for example, the school district probably doesn’t matter that much. You may want a low crime rate, but what crimes are you really concerned about? Is this mostly just a bedroom community for you?

You may find that your actual needs from your neighborhood are smaller than you think. In the end, we decided that our only needs were a decent school district and a tolerable crime rate, and that actually ended up including almost every community we looked at save one or two.

This seems like such a simple step, but you’d be surprised how many people simply say “We don’t want to livethere” when doing a home search. Without even looking at what the neighborhood can provide, they exclude what might be a wonderful bargain for them.

When you’re thinking about where to live, focus on the facts and focus on what you actually need. You might find the perfect home value for you in a place you might not expect.

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