landscapeBy: Amanda Pilley  |  Buying a new house or choosing a new apartment is a way to start over.  When the time comes to buy or move, you must decide where you want to live.  It’s good to know how much you can afford, but if you hate the neighborhood, you’ll never love your new home. And your neighborhood says a lot about you. When someone asks where you live, they are learning more about you than just your geographic location. So before you blindly start looking for a new place to live, think about where you want to live.  Trust me, the location will make all the difference.

The first thing you must do is think about what is essential for you in a neighborhood, and then think about the additional wants that you have.  What is your commute to work?  Do you have kids that need to get to school?  Start with knowing your needs and let your needs decide which neighborhood you choose.

Everyone’s needs are different, but mine include the amount of time it takes me to get from my home to work, and the distance to local recreation.  Your needs might also include the local crime rate (Call the local police department.  Don’t be afraid.), local housing costs (easily obtained from your real estate agent), and what the future resale value of your home is.  Once you’ve zeroed in on the “bones” of your ideal location then you can start exploring the fun stuff: your wants.

If you’re anything like me, your wants far outweigh your needs.  We all have wants.  Do you want an ocean view (hint: views are a BIG seller in Southeast Alaska!)?  What type of house are you looking for? Single-family? Apartment? A historic house?  How about what you don’t want?  Already found a neighborhood you’re interested in?  By all means, go check it out!

If you’ve found a neighborhood you’re interested in, spend some time there.  Do some research.  If you can’t afford the housing costs of a particular neighborhood, then you’re wasting your time.  Ask what is in store for this particular neighborhood.  If the city is planning on a nearby landfill, this will drag down the value of surrounding neighborhoods.  The city planning department will be able to tell you what is planned for the area around your chosen neighborhood.

The best way to research a neighborhood is to actually go there.  Go to your chosen neighborhood and get a first impression.  Will you be proud to say that you live in that neighborhood?  Can you live there?  Go there at different times of day.  Are the streets lit at night?  Is there rush hour traffic?  More importantly, can you see yourself there?  Are the schools nice, or are there several abandoned, vandalized buildings?  Are the inhabitants all renters, or do they own the property? Does everything seem like it’s for Sale?  Do yourself a favor and talk to some of the people there and find out their insider view of the neighborhood.

Once you have chosen an area, then you can find out how much you can afford, compare your loan options, and find out what is available in your chosen neighborhood.  This is when the real negotiating begins.  Bottom line is, if you don’t love the place, then don’t choose to live there.  Once you find the place where your real estate wants and needs meet, you will finally be in the place where everything comes together.

Amanda has lived in Southeast Alaska for most of her adult life and recently moved back to Juneau for the third time. She is a graduate of Albertson College of Idaho with a degree in Creative Writing. To reach Amanda, please feel free to email her at