When you rent, you can always move after the lease is up. When you buy, you’ll be there for a longer term, think 5-10 years or more. Because of this, the neighborhood you choose when you buy is more important than when you rent. If you choose a home that is hard to get to, and you have to go on a certain side street to access a one-way street and then turn down an alley, keep in mind that you’ll be doing that every day for 5 to 10 years.
Selecting your ideal neighborhood will depend on many factors. Some of the most important factors contribute to the everyday enjoyment of your home.
Community. Many people desire to be close to parks, schools, shopping, and more. Do you mind driving a few miles to the grocery store? Or would you prefer walking to the local grocery store? Another thing you may wish to consider is if the area is walkable to nightlife, such as Uptown or Downtown if you like to spend the night on the town every now and ten. Or maybe you want to be able to walk to a local park, and this is an important factor to you.
Character of the home / neighborhood. Some people love that all the houses in a neighborhood have a uniform look . Some people love that all the houses in a neighborhood are unique. You want to make sure that the character of the house styles is attractive to you. I have a website dedicated to the house styles in Minneapolis and St Paul. Either way, be sure that you enjoy the look of the buildings in the neighborhood itself.
Crime and Safety. Everybody wants to be in a “safe” neighborhood, but the definition of “safe” can vary from person to person. You should check with the local police department to see if a neighborhood has an acceptable level for you. There are several resources available so that you can analyze what is "safe" to you. One website, RaidsOnline.com, has many cities crime information on it.
Access. Whether it is close to the freeway or close to major roads can be important. Think of how far your school or work is from the house. Think of how long a commute you want to have. Easy access to the major freeways is a bonus for many buyers. Also consider the bus routes or the light rail lines.
The best thing is for you to figure out what is important to you and select the neighborhood based on your factors.
Is walkability important for you? Some people want to be near Uptown Minneapolis where you can easily walk to several restaurants, stores, and bars. You can use the website www.WalkScore.com to see how they rate certain areas. Large parts of Uptown have a very high walk score, in the 80s and 90s. This is because most amenities are walkable from many areas within Uptown. Same goes for Downtown.
If you consider a suburb such as Apple Valley, the walk score is much lower. This is because it will almost always require a car to get to the local grocery store, or Target, or restaurant. It's not necessarily a bad thing, just a question of what you prefer.
There are a number of different ways to find the values of houses that have recently sold. Doing this research will give you a good idea of the prices in different areas. This can help you know how much house you can afford. It can also help narrow down areas so that you don't end up looking in areas that you can't afford.
There are several places where you can get statistical information by city or area or region. The Minneapolis Area Association of REALTORS is one such place. Look on the home page. 10k Market Research also provides much information.
I can also provide localized detailed statistics from the MLS system for individual areas, neighborhoods, and cities. Here is an example of Southwest Minneapolis, Single Family (vs condo vs townhouse), Traditional (vs lender mediated), Previously Owned (vs new construction) homes: