4 Tips for Researching Your New Neighborhood

boy in suburbs with dog

Post from MilitaryByOwner

“This assignment has been great! I just wish we lived in a different neighborhood.”

If I had a nickel for every time a friend said that line…well, I’d have a lot of nickels! One of the biggest hurdles with a PCS is choosing the best neighborhood to move into. Like other military families, our priorities when looking for a new home are good schools, an easy commute, ample amenities, and a sense of security.

Consider these tips when scouting out a new neighborhood:

1) Look at the Big Picture

Typing an address into an online map allows us to navigate the streets from the comfort of our living room, hundreds of miles away. Having a ground plan gives us an idea of what the residences in the area look like. With a bird’s-eye view of the neighborhood, we have permission to peek around the surrounding properties. This online exploration is handy if we spot a backyard structure and wonder, “Is that a swimming pool or a skateboard ramp?” By mapping the location ahead of time, we gain an understanding of the lay of the land.

2) Safety First

With military orders in hand, looking for houses in our price point can be kind of fun! Not so fun? Looking up crime and statistics. Still, as we narrow down our property search, it’s important for us to

  • Take note of which parts of the city seem to have more police activity.
  • Scan through online registries for any sex offenders residing nearby
  • Check in with the local homeowner’s association (HOA) to ask about neighborhood watch programs.

Finding out about the less appealing areas is often a big part of learning about our upcoming assignment.

3) Explore Educational Alternatives

I’m reminded of the time we found a rental near a top-rated elementary school known for its well-rounded curriculum. If that seems too good to be true, it was! Everyone in the area raved about sending their children to that school. However, its popularity was the root of the problem. Every classroom was tightly packed with eager students. Our kiddos were simply overwhelmed.

There are back up plans available for military children when neighborhood schools are not the best fit. When we discussed the overcrowding issue with the local School Liaison Officer at the Department of Defense Education Activity (DoDEA) office, we ended up with helpful alternatives that eased our children’s fears and encouraged them to thrive. If you happen to wind up in a similar situation, keep in mind there are indeed options beyond what your neighborhood offers.

4) Look and Listen

If the timing works and our budget allows, either my spouse or I will travel out to view the houses we’ve researched. Passing by the potential homes at different intervals gives us a glimpse of daily life in each neighborhood. When checking on a property, we look for

  • Accessibility to major routes during morning rush hour.
  • How busy the neighborhood seems during the day.
  • Ambient noise level around the street at night.

We’ve even chatted a bit with the locals to learn about the community. Gaining a sense of the lifestyle at a new assignment helps us decide which neighborhood has the best atmosphere for our military family.

The points I’ve shared here are things we tend to think about while preparing to PCS. By taking the time to research different neighborhoods, we hope to find the best place to live during our assignment. No matter where the military sends us, we’re optimistic we’ll find a spot that we’ll genuinely enjoy calling our home.

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