Good schools, a thriving business district, and access to public parks and recreational facilities are only a small part of what makes a neighborhood a thriving community. A quick drive through its streets to look for nicely kept homes and mowed lawns provides additional confirmation on a neighborhood’s viability, and deeper inspection should reveal the stages of the neighborhood life cycle.

Look deeper than the surface
A nicely kept lawn might simply mean that a family pays a neighborhood kid to come mow the lawn once a week, and nothing more. But a closer look could reveal extra effort in the landscaping such as a weed-free yard, suggesting fertilizer use, or flowering annuals, which signifies yearly planting. Keeping a manicured lawn is easy, but keeping up with landscaping requires more dedication and reveals residents who care about their homes and their surroundings.

Life cycle decline or growth
A neighborhood where most of the homes were built in the 1950s might seem like the last place where a hot real estate market could develop, but a home’s age shouldn’t be the only indicator used by agents and their clients to characterize a community. The homes in a neighborhood could be 50 years old, but the area could actually be popular with young families. Minivans in driveways and small bicycles on the lawn would reveal a family-friendly community while wheelchair ramps and railings suggest an older population.

Deciphering heavy sales activity
A neighborhood with a lot of houses for sale could be the sign of a community where sellers believe they can make a profit on selling, or it could be a sign of a neighborhood in decline, where residents simply want to leave. An abundance of vacancies in nearby business and commercial districts could provide evidence that a neighborhood’s sales activity is pointing to a decline and a pending exodus of residents.

Gauging attitudes in the neighborhood
It’s hard to walk up to a house in a neighborhood and ask questions of the occupants. Fortunately, there are other, less invasive, ways to interact with residents. A trip to the local coffee shop can reveal whether community members are friendly and engaged with one another or whether getting a cup of coffee is just another part of the daily grind before work each day.

Finding a neighborhood that’s on an upward trajectory is valuable, whether a future homeowner wishes to sell within a few years and wants to build equity, or whether the home will be a permanent residence where a family plans to raise the kids. A neighborhood might feel peaceful and friendly today, but five years down the road values could plummet. Prospecting a neighborhood makes it easier to locate an appropriate community.

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This content is not the product of the National Association of REALTORS®, and may not reflect NAR's viewpoint or position on these topics and NAR does not verify the accuracy of the content.