When you choose a property, you're also choosing a neighbourhood to live in.
It's worth thinking about the way you will be living there - which shops, schools and other amenities you'll be using, where your friends and relations are, where you'll be working, how you plan to get around, and what type of environment you want to live in.
Before you buy a property, it's worth thinking about how you and others in your household will get to work, school, shops and other facilities you'll need regularly.
Can you get there easily by walking or biking, or by taking public transport? If not, you may be committing to a costly, time-consuming daily commute.
As well as work, schools and shops, consider access to:
- family and friends
- parks and recreational facilities
- health services
- childcare services and playgroups
- leisure activities such as movie theatres and cafes
- business services such as photocopiers and office supplies
What does a location really cost?
Some areas might seem less expensive than others because the up-front property costs are lower. But what you save on the purchase price might be lost in other on going additional costs.
As well as mortgage repayments, factor in transport and energy costs and rates when you're making your decision.
If you live and work in a city, a compact home near the city centre is likely to be cheaper to heat and maintain than a large suburban home. And if it's near public transport you'll save on travel costs and commuting time.
The Fuelsaver.govt.nz website has information about annual fuel costs for different cars. You can find out about public transport in your region from your local or regional council.
Is the neighbourhood designed for people?
The design and layout of a neighbourhood can influence how people interact and look out for each other, and how safe it is.
It's worth considering:
- Is the neighbourhood easy to get around on foot?
- Does it have parks, playgrounds and other public spaces where people can meet and kids play?
- Are there local community activities such as bingo, clubs or arts and crafts groups?
- Is there a mixture of homes, shops and other facilities that will ensure the neighbourhood is active throughout the day and evening?
- Does it seem lively? Are there a lot of people around at most times of the day?
- Is there a strong 'community' feel? If you're not sure, ask people who live in the area.
- Do people seem to take pride in their homes and in the neighbourhood?
- Are homes hidden behind high fences and garages/carports, or are they oriented towards the street?
Is it safe?
The more people look out for each other, and the more lively and active the neighbourhood, the safer it is likely to be.
Safety is also influenced by the way streets, buildings and public areas are designed. For example, areas used by pedestrians should be well-lit and visible from nearby homes or shops.
Is there a neighbourhood support/neighbourhood watch scheme in place?
Character and 'feel'
Every neighbourhood has a different 'feel', which can be influenced by many things, such as street layout and the design or age of buildings and public spaces.
It's a good idea to walk around the neighbourhood to see whether you like its atmosphere and the types of homes it offers.
Heritage areas can add interest to a neighbourhood, but may also have special planning requirements which will affect any building or renovation you want to do.
Trees and plants make streets more attractive, improve air quality, help with stormwater runoff, and provide shade in summer. However, bear in mind that many councils have tree protection bylaws for large trees, and bush areas which may constrain the building or renovation you want to do.
Apartments, townhouses and detached homes offer different prices, lifestyle options and access to facilities. Neighbourhoods with higher-density housing are more compact, which should make them easier to get around.
It's worth finding out what types of development are allowed in the neighbourhood. Is its character likely to change, for example through infill housing or commercial/industrial land uses? What restrictions are there on any building you might want to do?
It can be hard to get an accurate impression of the noise levels in a neighbourhood in just one visit. It's worth visiting at different times of the day and night. Listen for traffic noise, dogs, industry, noise from late-night bars, and any other noises that might bother you as a resident.
Industry, food preparation/processing operations, and agricultural operations that use sprays may produce odours. It's a good idea to check out the prevailing or common wind direction - odours can carry large distances.
From Smarter Homes
From other websites
For information on estimated building costs for your area, see the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, Building and Housing information website.
Maps, aerial photographs and topographical information can be found at the Land Information NZ website as well as property surveys and titles. You'll have to pay for some of this content.
Your regional or local council will have information about zoning and planning requirements. Visit the Local Government Online website has contact details for New Zealand local authorities.
The Statistics New Zealand website provides community profiles of all towns, suburbs and districts in New Zealand.
The Quotable Value website provides information about property price trends, both nationally and locally. You can also order valuation and past sales information for individual properties through these sites. You'll have to pay for some of this content.
You can order reports about earthquake risks and other hazards for individual properties through the Property Insight website. You'll have to pay for some of this content.
You can read Education Review Office reports about schools and childcare centres at the Education Review Office website.