When you are looking at a list of potential properties, it can be very easy to get caught up in the presentation of the property itself; after all that is what you are here for isn’t it? However by looking at the surrounding area, you will start to get a good indication of the ‘type’ of neighbourhood the property resides in. It is all very well scoring a great deal on a fantastic three bedroom property with a lovely spacious gar5den, but if the neighbours are loud, rowdy and have vicious dogs that don’t respect garden boundaries, then you’re going to have a hard time.
As the old saying goes ‘good neighbours become good friends’ and while you are not legally required to befriend your neighbours, it helps a great deal if you are at least on good terms with your neighbours. By taking a look at the surrounding area when looking at prospective properties, you can also get a pretty good idea of the types of people you may find living there, and whether or not you are likely going to be woken up at 4am to an impromptu drum solo or a particularly loud drunken brawl. Here are a few things you’ll want to watch out for.
Weeds and/or Flowers
Good neighbours will pay attention to their gardens and front lawns. If the neighbours appear to have a wide sprawl of different brightly coloured plants all in different beds or pots, chances are the neighbourhood is a good one. House proud neighbours will also make an effort to give their garden a bit of love. Don’t be deterred by gardens that seem overgrown; it could be organised chaos.
What you want to look out for is weeds. Nettles, vines and ivy can all be bad signs. Anything that grows naturally and can be visually intruding on a garden. Think of it this way; if your neighbour cannot take care of their garden, how do you think their home will fare? Neighbourhoods that appear pleasing will fetch a better price than neighbourhoods in disrepair when it comes to re-selling.
Neighbourhood Watch Present?
If you can see signs posted in the neighbours window of that old black and yellow poster; The Neighbourhood Watch, this may be a sign of a good, close-knit neighbourhood. Good neighbours can be good or bad company, depending on how you want to live your life but in general, neighbours setting up a neighbourhood watch mean that they are house proud and likely to have your back in times of peril.
In some cases a neighbourhood can act very much like an extended family, with barbeques, summer parties and events occurring throughout the year that is designed to bring the neighbourhood closer together. A Neighbourhood watch is a sign of this ‘family’ aesthetic and is often a good sign.
Presence of Skips/Furniture
Is there old furniture around? Ripped up threadbare sofas and broken wooden chairs? A skip full of old branches and other bric-a-brac? This could be a really bad sign. See if you can check around the skip to see whether or not it has been there a long time. Skips are a great way of disposing of large furniture and branches, but if they have been sitting in the garden for a while, then this is a sign of a bad neighbourhood.
There is a difference between lawn furniture and abandoned furniture and it is often very easy to see. A quick glance over your prospective neighbour’s fence doesn’t do much harm, but it does give you a good indication of how they keep their homes, particularly if there is an old rusted car body sitting in their back garden.
Condition of Nearby Schools and Parks
Another good indication of the sort of neighbourhood you may be moving into is the condition of any local schools or parks. If they are well kept, frequented by people from all walks of life and generally pleasantly aesthetic, this is obviously a good sign. If the park appears desolate or overgrown, or passers-by tend to avoid walking past the school, then this is more of a warning sign. One thing to remember about schools and parks; they contain children. If you’re not fond of children, you might want to reconsider your purchase.
Obviously it doesn’t do entirely good to judge a book by its cover, but in general if you want to know the prospects of the property you are looking at, including any potential issues during certain months, such as damp and mould during the winter, or an infestation of crickets in the summer, you need to look at the surrounding neighbourhood. If there only seems to be one neglected house with an overgrown garden and flaking roof tiles, there is not so much to worry about but it is important to be careful. Make sure you check out the surrounding area before deciding to buy, no matter how attractive the initial offer may seem.
Article provided Chiltern Associates; Suffolk based chartered surveyors with more than thirty years experience.
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