Choosing the Right Neighborhood in 2014

People often spend a lot of time thinking about the house they want to live in, but not as much time considering the neighborhood. Here are some important questions to consider before making an offer on a house. Since the answers to these questions are different for different people, I’ll just pose the questions and let you answer them in a way that’s right for you. They aren’t in any particular order for the same reason; depending on where you are in your life, different issues may matter more.

What’s Your Relationship to Transportation?

If you use public transportation or prefer to walk rather than drive, you’ll want to make sure your house is close to an MTA bus stop and/or within walking distance of work, schools, shopping, and other services. Read this as “older Westside Ukiah.” If you commute to work, you’ll probably prefer quick access to the freeway, rather than having to traverse a country road out to a rural property at the end of a long day. Read this as “Potter Valley.”

How Important is Privacy?

For some, privacy is paramount. If you want to live somewhere private, you may require a more rural property with fewer neighbors. In addition to the quiet, it may be nice to be just far enough away from town, somewhere your mother-in-law won’t be tempted to stop by without calling.

Are Kids a Blessing or a Curse?

If you have children, you may be looking for a neighborhood with other families who have children roughly the same age. Look for basketball hoops, bikes, or a swing set in the yard to indicate what age neighborhood kids might be. Having a school nearby might be really convenient. On the other hand, if you’re retired and enjoy peace and quiet, you may not care to have 427 eighth graders walk past your house every afternoon or the neighbor’s teenager practice with his garage band late into the night.

What Does “Convenient” Mean to You?

If you want to be able to run to the grocery store in ten minutes, you’ll need to find a neighborhood close to town. If you want to be able to go for a hike in the woods by walking out of your back door, your choices about where to live will be more limited. You may want to locate close to a park or golf course, or not. Keep in mind, sometimes large events take place in parks; you may not want to hear the Concerts in the Park on a warm summer evening. Or, near the golf course, you may not want to wake to “FORE” bright and early on a weekend morning.

And Now For Your House

Once you’ve picked a neighborhood, it’s time to start thinking about a house that will fit your needs. How many beds and baths do you need today? How many are you likely to need in the next several years? Are you starting a family or a business that will require extra space? Are kids going off to college soon?

Are you an avid gardener who wants to vacation in your yard by replanting annuals every spring or would you like that tastefully done rock garden? Do you need room to build raised planters for veggies or will you use a frequent flyer pass to the Farmers’ Market?

Are you a handyman or woman when it comes to restoring this fixer upper, or do you need a house that’s been recently redone? Do you need a mother-in-law unit or just separate living areas under the same roof? Is the home Fido-friendly? Does it have a fenced yard? Do you want one story or two?

Trust me, you won’t find a home that meets all your needs so you need to make a prioritized list, and be clear about what you want versus what you need. Be sure to be honest with yourself, and to share this list with your realtor. He or she knows neighborhoods and houses, and can scour the Multiple Listing Service offerings to make sure you find what you’re looking for.

Just a quick reminder about tomorrow’s “Walk a Mile in Her Shoes” fundraiser and awareness raiser for Project Sanctuary. I’ve done this. You don’t have to walk a whole mile in heels, but more like 30 minutes (long enough). Learn more by visiting the Project Sanctuary website ( or by calling the office at 462-9619.

Next time I’ll write about rules for renters. If there’s something you would like me to write about or if you have questions about real estate or property management, feel free to contact me at or visit our website at If you make a suggestion I use, I’ll send you a $5.00 gift card to Schat’s Bakery & Café. If you’d like to read previous articles, visit my blog at Dick Selzer is a real estate broker who has been in the business for more than 35 years.

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