|Gorgeous map cushions from My Bearded Pigeon|
1. Think about what you like about where you live now. Brainstorm what is is about the area that appeals to you. If you really like that area that you are living in, or is it just familiarity? Are you planning on staying in that area for any reason in particular or is it time for you to branch out? Try to look for the qualities you enjoy in any potential suburb.
2. What don't you like about where you live now? Knowing what to avoid is just as important as knowing what you want. If there is something about your area that really turns you off then you don't want to replicate that in another suburb.
3. What is the lifestyle like? You might want a suburb with a vibrant night life in your 20s, but if you have children you are unlikely to want to live a block away from the nightclub district. Also think about how you like to spend your leisure time; if you are the outdoors type you may want somewhere that has access to loads of bushwalking tracks and parks, or you might be a shop-a-holic who wants to be able to peruse the local boutiques on a Saturday morning. Maybe you need both!
4. Visit the area. There is nothing like spending the day somewhere to really get to know it. Make a point of setting aside a whole day to cruise around checking it out; eat in the local restaurants, shop in the local shops, check out the amenities and see what it is like be there for a decent amount of time.
5. Find people that live in the area. There's nothing like experience to tell you how it really is. If you know someone who lives there then great, if not ask around your friends to see if there is anyone you know who has a friend or relative that lives there, give them your email address or phone number and start a conversation. Failing this, try having a chat with local shop owners or finding an appropriate online forum to ask people their opinions. If the locals aren't recommending it then it's probably a no-go!
6. Cost of living. Some suburbs are just more expensive to live in than others. Is there a major shopping centre or will you have to shop in smaller, more expensive convenience stores? Will breakfast at the local cafes break the bank? Also consider council rates etc if you are buying.
7. Research house prices and the market in the area. Is it a realistic choice for you? Suburbs that are out of your price range may be next door to suburbs that aren't, and in some cases 'near enough is good enough'. At times it is merely the name of the suburb that can add thousands to the price, but be aware that this will also be the same when you are trying to sell down the track.
8. Talk to a local agent and see what is available. Know what you are dealing with in terms of availability of the kind of property you are after. See my tips for finding your dream home to help you identify your criteria. The agent might also suggest some nearby areas that you hadn't considered.
9. Think practical. What amenities do you need? Schools, public transport, churches, shops, parks, services... the list goes on! What is the commute like? Don't look at distance here, look at time. I live twice as far from my work as Michael does from his but my commute is quicker! Remember too that if you have a car it changes the game. We can't walk to our local supermarket, for instance. It matters little to us, but if we didn't have a car then doing the grocery shopping would be a total hassle. Is it convenient to the places that you regularly go? If it is tricky to get to your weekly Netball game or to your Mum's house, it might rule it out!
10. Future proof your decision. An example of this is choosing a suburb that has good daycare centres and schools, even if you haven't had kids yet. We chose an area with an abundance of these facilities as we plan on having children in a few years. Think about the potential of the area and resale values. Also consider any major developments that are coming up- eg. it might not be next to a freeway now but is one planned for later?
What happens once you have thought about all of that? Make a list. Again with the lists, I know I know, but it can be an invaluable tool to either eliminate or expand from. List what you want/need in a suburb and that way you can 'check off' whether potential suburbs fit your criteria. Start by looking in surrounding suburbs and expand outwards from there, or just open a street directory ( how old-skool!) and have a flick through!