There is no shortage of factors to consider when it comes to apartment or house hunting. Finding the right unit in the right location takes quite a deal of work, but it’s work worth doing considering the long term investment that a new homeowner, or even renter, is about to make. The unit has to meet your specific needs, and the less you have to compromise to get there the better. Still, some factors are more important than others. One of the most essential is security. You might be willing to settle for a place without central A.C., or be okay with letting that parking space go, but you should never compromise on your own safety. So before you sign the dotted line, make sure your new home is safe. Here’s what to look for:
This is one of the first things anyone should do when considering a move to a new area. Detailed crime statistics are readily available and easy to access for virtually any location, and they’re worth paying attention to. They’ll give you a great snapshot of the neighborhood you’re considering with a rundown of which crimes are committed there as well as the frequency of those crimes. Crime stats aren’t everything of course. And seeing a number that breaks down the statistical likelihood of you becoming a victim in a given area doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ll become one. But raw data is a great place to start.
By far, the best way to determine the safety of a neighborhood is to simply ask the people who live there. Do you already have friends who live around? Are there acquaintances you can ask who live there currently or used to? If you happen to lack a network readily available to ask, you still shouldn’t let that stop you. Have a frank conversation with the landlord or property manager. Talk to the current tenant or owner if you can. Don’t be shy about knocking on a neighbor’s door, and asking them for their opinion. Most people are more than willing to share their experiences if you’re polite, and ask in a sincere, approachable way.
Find out about the basic security situation in the home or apartment you’re about to call home. Check if all the doors and windows are sturdy and secure. In addition to the doors, the windows should all have locks. The front door should have a solid deadbolt at the bare minimum. Ask the landlord or property manager plenty of questions. If you’re looking at a unit in an apartment building, it’s important to have a grasp on the features like whether or not there’s a gate or locked door to the complex, if there’s a doorman or security personnel, and who has access to the building. Knowing the details won’t just help you feel safe, they’ll help you feel prepared.
Proximity to Services
Because businesses struggle in areas of high crime, you won’t find stores like Starbucks in bad neighborhoods. But upscale coffee houses aren’t the only thing you’d miss out on. High crime areas tend to lack everything from grocery stores to Laundromats, as owners are hesitant to set up their locations in areas that might put their products, customers, or employees at risk. If your prospective neighborhood feels like a desert for goods and services, not only would that be highly inconvenient, but it also means it might not be the best place to live when it comes to safety. Furthermore, if you’re buying a home, the ability to walk places can push up appreciation rates, making your home more valuable over time. Choose a spot where businesses aren’t afraid to operate.
Look and Feel
This may seem subjective, but you can actually learn a lot by a neighborhood just be walking around. Since most people tend to visit homes and apartments during the day, it can be easy to get a false read on a location. Drop by sometime in the evening, get out of your car and walk around. Pay attention to what you see and – more importantly – pay attention to how you feel. Are other people walking around? Do they seem friendly? Is the area well lit? Do properties look respectable and well kept or run down and falling apart?
Try to be aware of the behavior and body language of anyone you see. There’s a very noticeable spectrum that runs from welcoming to indifferent to predatory and hostile, and you’ll be able to recognize the difference. The most important tool you have at your disposal is your own instinct. If you feel unsafe, that’s probably because you are, and even if you weren’t, that’s not a great feeling to have to experience in a place you call home. Find a location that won’t leave you feeling on edge. No matter what your criteria is for a new living environment, it’s always worth it to feel secure.