San Jose itself is the 10th largest city in the United States. San Jose is also surrounded by over 10 other cities. Each neighborhood is fairly unique and it can be quite overwhelming for those who have been raised in the area, much less for those of us who have relocated. Unless you recently lived in Manhatten, the first shock to overcome is the cost of buying a home. Once you make it over that hurdle, how do you decide what is the best neighborhood for you?
First, check out local maps to simply identify different neighborhoods. Use a simple map like Yahoo Maps or Google Maps that label the areas. While you are looking at this map pay attention to where the highways are, where the parks are, and where the train tracks are located. This will be important information when you start looking at zip codes and listings. It will help you identify the pockets that will most likely fit your basic lifestyle.
If commute time is important, try to choose a neighborhood that allows you to head in the opposite way of commute traffic to get to work. Also look for mass transit opportunities that will allow you options on those days that your nerves simply can’t take bumper-to-bumper traffic or you’ve decided not to pay $4.00/gallon for gas.
If schools are important, look at both private and public schools systems before choosing a neighborhood. Sometimes the better choice is to pay for private school and live where you want instead of paying top dollar for your home for 18-20 years. How can anyone predict which school systems will be best over time? I know many clients have completed the analysis and decided they can better afford a top private school over the cost difference of living in a high demand neighborhood.
Next, identify a couple of areas on the map and get in your car. Drive to a central area and turn down this street and that street. Go by the parks. Go by the schools. Check out the local shopping areas. Identify how many restaurants there are in the local area. Better yet, choose a place to eat lunch or dinner that is within your neighborhood scout. You can look on YELP! or SanJose.com to find many reviews on restaurants. Try to at least do two tours of the area you are interested in; one during the day and one at night. Once you have narrowed it down make sure you spend some time walking the neighborhood. Park and walk to one of the restaurants or shops. Evaluate what you like about the area. Is it clean? Does it feel safe? Do people smile when they pass you? Are there lots of dogs? Are there lots of kids? What matters to you?
Once you have a feel for the neighborhoods and what you like, sit down with a REALTOR and get their take on the areas you have picked out that are interesting. Find out what they know and ask them to help you narrow down the best streets for now and future value. Make sure you have a priority list that you can share with the REALTOR. This will help them fine tune a search area. Discuss price points and learn about the value of each area. Some areas you can get a lot of house for less money but you may be driving more or have a lower scoring public schools available. Other areas you will have great schools, short commutes, but prices restrict you to a very small home.
Finding the right neighborhood takes a commitment of time and a sense of adventure. I find that if buyers take the time to get to know the various areas of San Jose, they are more satisfied with their final destination. Unlike renting, this choice is about your sense of home. What does home mean to you? Take time to identify that feeling and then it will be easier to find the right house and neighborhood to call home. Contact me if you would like to talk about different neighborhoods. I am happy to help.