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If you’re starting to think about looking for a new home, picking the neighborhood can seem almost as complicated as picking the house itself. Here are five things to keep in mind as you explore neighborhoods you might like to live in.

1. Time the Commute to Your Job

If one of your reasons for moving is dissatisfaction with your commute, make sure you actually time your commute from your potential new home before you assume it will be faster. Even if the new neighborhood is closer to your job, traffic patterns and road conditions might make for a long drive. If possible, time your commute during rush hour, so you get the most accurate picture.

2. Go For a Walk

There’s no better way to get a sense of a neighborhood than taking a walk around it, ideally at a couple of different times of the day. Look for amenities that are important to you, like parks or grocery stores, and features you’re less fond of, like proximity to major roads. These little explorations will help you get a feel for how happy you could be in this area.

3. Attend a Local Event

If you’re looking to get a feel for the people who live in the area as well as its layout, try to attend a local festival or other events. Assess the crowd to see how well they match your vision of your ideal neighborhood. Take your time to people-watch and get a sense of the community. Local school events like sports games or plays are a particularly good way to see the community; even if you don’t have school-aged kids, you learn a lot about a community from how it treats its students.

4. Read Up on the Neighborhood

Do some research to see how this area has been mentioned online and in the news over the past few years. This will give you a sense of all sorts of important local issues: the job market, the controversies, the politicians, school events.  A town or regional paper is a great place to start because it will show you what locals think are important and how they go about having discussions.