Location, location, location
Julie Garton-Good, GRI, DREI

Q:When we purchased our first home in 1970, location was the most important factor in buying real estate. Is that still true today?

A:Property location is still one of the prime ingredients in purchasing a home. However, some buyers feel that the quality construction of the home and doing a thorough inspection before purchasing are closely tied to location in importance.

Location impacts the amount of appreciation your home will have, which is particularly critical today since inflation is low. Two identical properties, one adjacent to a park, the other next to a recycling center, could carry different market values based on location alone.

Property location also affects the type and amount of financing you can obtain. A lender may require a larger down payment on a mortgage in a less desirable area because appreciation will be less. A property in an area of declining values could be tough to sell if foreclosure occurred. Proximity to a high-crime area or an area that's run down will lessen the value of the property.

Private mortgage insurance, which protects the lender against the borrower's default, will cost more or be tough to get if the area is in ill repair. Homeowner's insurance will cost more, too.

Q:I noticed that the salesperson showing us property always accessed houses in every subdivision from just one main arterial street. Now that we want to take another look by ourselves, what's the best way to do a thorough job of driving around?

A:Hopefully the salesperson was trying to get there via the most logical route and not trying to hide any adjoining neighborhoods that were falling apart.

Take the least likely route to the property. Pretend that you are an appraiser, analyzing not just the property, but adjacent homes, streets and amenities. Does the traffic flow well to and from the home? If you make several trips at different times of the day and, if possible, different days of the week, you'll get the best overview. (A friend once told me he had no idea there was commercial zoning one-half block away until he stayed home from work one day and heard noisy industrial equipment from a car detailing company.)

Note any busy intersections you find close to the property (especially those in view of the house) and jot down their location. It would be wise to call the proper city or county authority to determine if a light or other type of traffic control system (like road widening) is planned. The positive side of changes would be that traffic might flow more freely. The negative side would be a traffic light glaring in your bedroom window after the changes were made. This could drastically affect the resale of the property as well as property value.

Q:There are so many communities to choose from in my area, what are some guidelines to help narrow down the possibilities when we're looking for a new home?

A:Besides choosing the interior features you'd enjoy in a home, evaluate your personal lifestyle priorities. If quick access to work is important, and it's imperative that you be within close proximity to the kids' school, you may be willing to sacrifice quiet country living for a lifestyle of convenience. If, on the other hand, you couldn't bear to be outside of walking distance from a championship golf course, that's a priority. Rate your top five personal priorities and how they affect your lifestyle.

Don't forget to address the trade-offs you'd be willing to settle for. There are very few homes and living situations which are perfect. What are you willing to sacrifice? What will you not live without? Keep these in mind when house shopping.