Beyond the House: Other Factors to Consider in Your Home Search

Friday Oct 29th, 2021


When searching for a home, many have a pretty clear idea of what they are looking for. Whether it's the number of bedrooms, the style, or the square footage, there are characteristics that make a house an option we’d consider. It’s important to also consider factors beyond the house itself, especially those that you may not be able to change down the road. 
While these less common considerations aren’t always heavily weighted in the purchase decision making process, they do have the potential to cause some buyers remorse. I’ve highlighted below some of the factors to consider in your home search that are often overlooked. 
Live like a local
Depending on your lifestyle, you likely have an idea of the type of neighbourhood you’d like to live in. However, you won’t truly know what a neighbourhood is like to live in until you spend some time there. Explore the area as you would living there by car, foot or transit to get a true feel. How far really is the nearest grocery store? Can you actually walk your children to school like you’re hoping for? Is the nearest bus station really a 5 minute walk? It’s also helpful to identify other amenities that may be important to you, like gyms, pharmacies, daycare centres, community centres, or dog parks. Do you plan to walk or cycle often? Take note of sidewalks, crosswalks and bike lanes to gauge how pedestrian or cyclist-friendly the neighbourhood is.
Community involvement
If you’re looking to become more involved in your community, meet others in the neighbourhood or just participate in some fun activities and events, then exploring whether or not the area of the home you're considering has a Community Association is valuable. While this isn’t something that is necessary by any means, it is definitely an added bonus. 
Seasonal approach
When considering a home, it’s important to think of the property in all seasons throughout the year. For example, depending on the number and type of trees on the property you may have a very private yard in the summer, but no privacy in the winter and early Spring. Alternatively, you may not notice beautiful shrubs, gardens, and trees when searching for a home in the winter months. Try to think seasonally. Yes, a big driveway is going to be great but what does snow removal look like? What does the patio look like under all that snow? These are all things that are worth imagining or exploring a bit further when possible. 
On the fence
Often overlooked, but very important especially for those with dogs or children, is fencing. Is the yard completely fenced? Is the fencing in good shape or in need of repair? Putting in a new fence is not only a significant expense but can be a huge headache so knowing what you’re getting into beforehand can help.
Night and day
Just as it’s wise to imagine the property in all seasons, it’s a good idea to imagine the house at all times of the day. There is a beautiful park across the street but what time do they shut off the bright lights at the baseball diamond? Are those street lights out front going to require some blackout curtains? Is the street well lit if I’m walking home in the evening? These are all things you wouldn’t necessarily think about until you’re living them.
Knowing the neighbours
You can’t choose your neighbours, but taking a little peek to see what they are all about might give you a few clues as to who you’ll be living beside. Does it look like children may live there and your kids will have some potential playmates? Is the house and yard being maintained? While you’re going to have to actually become neighbours to learn they mow their lawn at 6:00am, there may be some helpful and immediate clues simply by driving by. 
Safety first
Did you know you can quickly get a sense of any possible crime in the area by using the Ottawa Police’s crime map? The map shows you what type of incidents were reported to police and when. Understanding the neighbourhood from a crime and safety perspective can provide some peace of mind or help you to be aware of potential threats. 
Noise can be tricky. In some situations noise from a nearby highway or busy street can be instantly noticed. In other cases it may not be as obvious. Perhaps rush hour brings a steady flow of traffic in front of your new home. Or you didn’t realize there was a fire station just around the corner. Spending time in the area can again help to get a sense of the potential noise you’ll be encountering. 
It’s helpful to ensure that area zoning for the property you're considering aligns with your expectations. Zoning categories can help you to understand desired population density outcomes and development for your area. You can learn about the various types of zoning in the City of Ottawa, and what your desired property is zoned, using geoOttawa.
Upcoming projects
Whether you’re in a more mature area or a new development, it’s always wise to do a bit of research on upcoming construction projects and home development in the area. What are they planning to do with that empty lot down the street? Is the beautiful green space you back onto protected or will that become something in time? Major construction projects and roadwork can sometimes last years. Staying informed on what’s coming will allow you to better evaluate a home or specific area, allowing you to potentially avoid an undesired outcome. 
These are just a few of things that are important to consider when searching for a home. While they aren’t typically at the top of one's list, they can have a lasting negative impact if overlooked. That’s where partnering with an experienced realtor comes in handy. When working with Melanie, she’ll not only be able to help you find a perfect home that suits your needs, but she’ll also identify and bring the appropriate considerations to your attention.

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