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Picking the right suburb for you

11:30 AEST Wed Mar 30 2011
Picking the right suburb for you
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By Hannah Nicholas,
MSN NZ Money writer

When it comes to purchasing a new home, the area you move into will become a big part of your life so it's important you make the right decision. Remember you can make a lot of changes to a house but you can't change its location.

How to find the right area
It's really important to know the areas you are going to be searching in from day one. House hunting can be a time-consuming process, so you don't want to waste hours looking in areas that just aren't right for your needs.

The end result will depend on your individual taste, needs and budget but you should take a long look at a number of areas before making a decision.

Do your research
Consider where you live now. What do you like and don't like about the area? Make a list of the pros and cons as well as what's important to you in a local area. Consider:

  • access to transport;
  • commuting distance to work;
  • sense of community;
  • how you feel about the surrounding area and the facilities it offers;
  • if there are adequate amenities nearby for your needs, such as shops, restaurants, medical centres, hospital and recreational facilities, etc;
  • if you're planning on starting a family, check there are enough related services, such as schools, preschools, parks and recreational centres, childcare options, hospital or medical facilities, etc; and
  • check with the local authorities on what developments or plans are in place for the area.

Always visit potential new suburbs as often as possible to get a feel for the area. Google Maps' "street view" mode will allow you to take a virtual stroll through a suburb, but nothing beats experiencing the area for yourself.

Tip: Consider how long you plan on living in the area and if it's a long-term option, make sure long-terms needs are also considered.

Cost
Of course, one of the main factors determining where you are going to buy is budget. There's no point buying in your ideal suburb if your budget's been pushed to the max and you can't cope with the mortgage repayments.

Experts suggest that if the areas you really like are out of your budget, consider making a list of features you love about those areas and see whether these can be found in other areas you may have overlooked.

Tip: From an investment point of view, the right area should also be somewhere you expect to raise in price.

Demographics
When you are buying a property be sure to look into the demographics of the area. Demographics, crime statistics, property values and data on schools and employment will help form a good picture of a suburb.

Many real estate websites offer suburb-based data that can give you a sense of property prices and demographics in an area.

Tip: Don't forget your own network of friends, family and colleagues who may be able to help with advice on what it's like to live in certain areas.