Buying a house is one of the most stressful, time-intensive investments most of us will ever make. This holds especially true if you’re building a house instead of just moving into an existing one. My family and I didn’t want to build, but that’s where we are. Surprisingly, finding a neighborhood to build in wasn’t too hard. We went the easy route and found a community first, then selected an available builder in the area that fit us best. Here are a few things we considered:
Area crime rates: This is easy enough to find. For example, here is an Austin view of the most dangerous neighborhoods. There are numerous sources for crime data and it only takes a few minutes to confirm that the area you’re looking at is good relative to others around town.
Schools: Ask around and look online. It won’t take long to figure out which schools are the best in your area. This doesn’t matter for my family, but a big deal if (when) we plan on selling. Always think about an exit strategy.
Proximity to amenities and employers: Are the latest up and coming employers within a reasonable distance and easily accessible by car or public transportation? How far away are quality grocery stores, hardware stores, pet stores, movie theaters, parks, etc?
Popularity: You may not want to keep up with the Jonses, but others do and being in a popular area that’s growing and bringing in ‘cool’ restaurants and employers is where you want to be. Look at city plans and retail construction signs. How well are houses selling in the area? Are there too many apartments and not enough established homes? The list goes on and on. It’s important to be where the energy is flowing. You’ll care about this when you want or need to sell someday.
Taxes: Tax rates vary, so it’s important to know what the property taxes are for the neighborhood you’re interested in. If it’s a new neighborhood with new streets and infrastructure, the city may apply a special MUD tax, for example.
To figure out what kind of taxes I would be paying, I visited Texas CAD Property Search and typed in the address of a house in the same neighborhood. The results may surprise you. Here is what I found. The tax rate is a solid 1/2% higher than where I live now.