Location, they say, is everything. In real estate, there are several forces at play in a typical buyer’s decision-making process. Budget, size, amenities are often some of the biggest players, especially for first-time buyers. I’ve seen buyer’s eyes get wide and sparkly as they gaze upon a new set of stainless appliances, or their jaw drop at the irresistible cuteness of a character home (with a damp basement and ramshackle one stall garage). Other buyers are solidly in the camp of number crunching. The budget is the end-all factor, and they will doggedly look at any and all homes that fit the bill trying to get the “most” home for the dollar, not fully realizing that some of the price tag is intangible.
I press my clients to carefully consider location in their home buying equation. There are many locations in the Iowa City, Coralville, North Liberty area that buyers consistently seem to seek out. We’ve got neighborhoods bursting with old fashioned charm, neighborhoods built close to the University of Iowa, other areas boast sprawling lots and grand homes, and some made up of quiet streets and modest homes within walking distance to Iowa City’s fabulous downtown. In the long-term, location can make or break a house for its owners, and when building equity is a goal of ownership, finding a house you can stay in for 5+ years, if not longer, is vitally important.
Some things to consider in terms of location are:
- Economically, does the neighborhood appear to be moving up, down or holding steady? Have you walked the neighborhood at different times of day to get a feel for what it’s like? Are you comfortable there? If you have children, or plan to, do you see evidence of other children living nearby, such as play structures, trampolines and outdoor toys in the yards? Are the neighbors “in to” what you’re in to—gardening, pets, backyard grilling, the fire pit social scene, competitive lawn mowing? Does the location fit you like a glove? Often locally-based groups and websites are great resources on getting the skinny and “real life” opinions on what particular neighborhoods are like. If you join local Facebook groups you can ask questions and get lots of feedback to consider. Check out the Iowa City Mom’s Blog here for their description of several local neighborhoods and communities.
- Walkability (and bikeability). Can you realistically walk or bike to places you might want to go, such as a park, library, coffee house, trail or restaurant? Can you walk the dog, or will you be trapped by busy roads with no sidewalks, or sequestered in a subdivision that leads to nowhere? Being tied to your car for everything can be limiting…and not so great for your health. Find out more about a specific address’s “walk score” here.
- Most of us spend a significant amount of time away from home at our jobs. Why add to that time away from home with a long commute? Those minutes add up over the years and become a life/work balance and quality of life issue.
- Easy access to the stores you frequent is important. Nobody wants to get home and realize they’re out of toilet paper or milk and then have a long drive back to the store.
- Many buyers with children have an opinion on which elementary school areas they’re focusing on, but often they don’t look past the K-6 grade years. After school sports and activities often increase with each advancing grade in school, so being within walking distance of your assigned junior high and high school can be a game changer. Save time, sanity and gas money by choosing a great location for your home.
When the day comes for you to finally sell your house, location will come into play again. There are four main things that sell a property. Price, condition, the Realtor® your hire for the job and location. As the seller, you can control three of those factors: price, condition and who you hire get the job done. The fourth factor, location, is out of your control, so make sure you choose wisely when committing to call someplace home.