House hunting is extremely personal. We all have our general fuzzy feelings of what the word “home” means. Some people want woods and shade; others want elegance or a warm and cozy feel. There are the folks that follow trends and only want the most up to date styles, while others look for a home with good bones that can be made into their own. Everyone has a price point, what they can afford and are willing to spend, and most folks have a need for the home to be a wise investment.
I read recently that the modern homebuyer is “lifestyle centric.” They are looking for a home in a community that allows the lifestyle they want. This can include neighborhoods with pools and walking trails, or close distance to restaurants and entertainment.
Walking trail in local neighborhood
When my husband and I look for a house, I always have in mind my love of gardening. I want tons of shade trees and privacy, but I need a large sunny area to grow my tomatoes and cucumbers. Choosing the right home determines whether I can grow some of my own food, and yet we spend so much time looking at bedrooms and kitchens. We have lived far from the city, causing my husband to have a long commute. We have lived in a tiny town near work, but with little in the way of parks or restaurants. Each home affects lifestyle and opportunity, and that can be a scary thing in house hunting. Right now we have a home closer to work but also closer to noise. We have plenty of shade trees, but not great gardening spots.
Tiny garden - tiny yields - big taste
I read today about two different trends for homebuyers, between city and suburban lifestyles. Each trend has its defenders and its positive aspects, as well as its specific problems.
Suburbs are communities away from a city or town center. They are collections of homes and neighborhoods, often further away from jobs and shopping. City dwellers are closer to those necessities, but with a higher price point for less space. The debate is which is better for community and health for those living in them.
One researcher said, ”When you do surveys, people in the suburbs generally know their neighbors more, they vote more, they’re more involved in their communities because they’re generally homeowners. In my neighborhood we know our neighbors and it’s very diverse – and a lot of people don’t want to give that up.” (Joel Kotkin).
So, which is better? Emily Badger wrote in a Washington Post blog that suburbs are killing us. “…data has shown that car accidents are more frequent and deadly in the suburban cul-de-sac pattern than in an urban street grid...a study found that more compact and connected cities are strongly correlated with reduced rates of obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease.”
Perhaps the answer can be found in the mixed-use communities, in which a small village is recreated. The neighborhood or community includes single family homes, attached homes, restaurants, parks and shops. The idea is that the neighborhood includes all aspects of the typical small town, and the people living there never have to leave. Families can walk or bike to activities and live a calmer, healthier lifestyle.
Of course, any choice is only good if the homeowner takes advantage of the amenities. Many people that live in these mixed-use communities still drive to shopping outside of the community because prices are lower with more options. Biking and walking take time and energy. People who live in these mixed-use communities also give up some freedoms, as the homeowners associations are usually more restrictive. People in suburbs have more quiet, but often are found inside watching tv. People in cities have many walking options, but often not the time.
Since house hunting is so personal, we should each have a list of what is important to us, a list of things we know we will care about and not a list of trends or what is hot at the moment. Only the person buying the house can really know what “fuzzy image” constitutes a home for them.
In other words, buy the house you want, not the one your parents, friends, internet buddies, or even your realtor wants.