What Makes a "Good" Neighborhood
As a REALTOR, I get the privilege of visiting countless neighborhoods and comparing them side by side with others. I get to see how my clients react when they pull into different neighborhoods and often subconsciously respond to their pros and cons.
As a REALTOR with a background in Interior Design, I can clearly distinguish the design psychology behind why my clients react in such way with each neighborhood. It's absolutely fascinating.
Many factors contribute to a "good" neighborhood, all of which can be subjective depending on individual preferences, but below are a list of 10 commonly agreed-upon characteristics of a "good" neighborhood:
1. Safety: Fun Fact: Under the Fair Housing Act, a Real Estate Agent can NOT tell you if a neighborhood is "safe" or not, nor can we share crime rates. These seem like things you SHOULD know when buying a house, right? Why can't we share? It could hold the agent liable for race or ethnicity discrimination. I also avoid sharing my safety opinions of different neighborhoods because everyone's definition of safety looks different. However, since safety is the #1 thing clients look for when relocating, I refer them to websites where they can find crime rates and registered sex offenders in the neighborhood(s). I allow them to come to their own conclusion of what level of safety they are comfortable with and then I mirror that in helping them search for their future home. Technicalities aside, there are always tell-tell signs of how safe a neighborhood is. For example, well-lit streets, active neighborhood watch programs, and a visible police presence can contribute to a feeling of safety. People out and about (walking trails, parks, green areas, etc.) add to social accountability and the feeling of safety in numbers.
2. Cleanliness: Clean streets, well-maintained homes, and public spaces free of litter and graffiti contribute to the neighborhood's overall appeal. I know some people hate HOA's, but this is the only way to regulate neighborhood cleanliness. Without an HOA, if you had a hoarder as a next-door neighbor who began to attract rodents and bugs, and a smell began to creep onto your property, there is nothing you could do about it. You could go to the county and report them as a public disturbance, but good luck with that. However, with an HOA, your neighbor would be flagged at the first sight of trash being left out. If it did go unnoticed, you could report them to the HOA and the problem would be taken care of ASAP. For this reason, I'll also add in this section that neighborhoods with an HOA can contribute to it being a "good" neighborhood simply for the sake of maintaining and regulating high expectations of cleanliness.
3. Amenities: Access to quality local amenities such as parks, recreational facilities, walking trails, libraries, shops, and restaurants are highly valued. Amenities heighten the sense of community and increase daily activity which overall makes residents happier with where they live. It's even better when there are facilities for physical activities like volleyball or pickleball courts, local hikes, a community pool, and a community center offering fitness classes. Increasing health and wellness is HUGE! When a community can offer these amenities - you aren't just in a "good" neighborhood, you're in a great neighborhood! Jackpot.
4. Green Spaces: Trees, parks, nature trails, gardens, tree-lined streets, green belts, and other green spaces are critical factors in improving communities from the inside out. Green spaces in neighborhoods are a vital oases, blending natural beauty with urban life and offering a serene escape for relaxation and recreation. They bolster mental and physical health by providing peaceful settings for outdoor activities, while also improving air quality and biodiversity and reducing urban heat islands (which is HUGE for Arizona!). When we go on walks through the desert washes in our neighborhood, we can feel an immediate drop in temperature year-round. It's amazing! I can't speak more highly of green spaces in neighborhoods.
5. Planned Spaces: These are thoughtfully designed spaces that promote interaction, such as community centers, squares, coffee shops, playgrounds, farmers' markets and nightlife. Planned spaces in real estate are not just about aesthetic appeal; they hold significant psychological importance. Thoughtfully designed planned spaces provide a sense of order and predictability, which can reduce stress and increase mental well-being. In the realm of real estate, well-planned spaces are highly valued as they not only cater to the functional needs of the residents but also contribute to their emotional and psychological health.
6. Community: In general, a strong sense of community with friendly neighbors and social activities can make a neighborhood more welcoming and inclusive. Community events like fall festivals, live music in the park, parades, farmers markets, and holiday fireworks, make residents feel like they are a part of something bigger. These events being hosted and planned by other community members FOR community members builds involvement and inclusion. They are opportunities to create and build friendships and strengthen one another in a fun engaging way.
7. Resident Involvement: Opportunities for residents to participate in decision-making processes of events and organizations can foster a more engaged and empowered community while leading to more tailored, effective solutions to local issues. This heightened sense of community and collaboration significantly enriches the living experience, creating a more connected, supportive, and responsive neighborhood environment.
8. Noise Level: Lower levels of noise pollution contribute to a peaceful, enjoyable environment. High noise levels caused by freeways, trains, high-traffic roads, airports, or major arenas make people want to stay in their homes to avoid the outside chaos, causing residents to recluse and community engagement/activity to decrease. Ideally, buyer's consider a "good" neighborhood to be peaceful yet lively with a healthy mix of friendly hustle-and-bussle and peaceful, playful activities. Residence want to hear the steady heartbeat of their own neighborhood living and thriving, not the outside chaos of an emergency cardiac ward that is the underworkings of a city's infastructure.
9. Diversity: Cultural diversity can enrich a neighborhood by offering varied cultural experiences, food, and traditions. It encourages inclusivity and empathy, as residents are exposed to different ways of life, enhancing the social fabric and resilience of the community. This cultural richness not only brings varied social interactions and festivities but also contributes to a more dynamic, innovative, and understanding neighborhood. Somthing, I think, our whole world could benefit from. Imagine if we all lived in a diverse neighborhood... Just a thought.
10. Architectural Harmony: Architectural harmony in a neighborhood is like a symphony where each building plays a part in creating a visually cohesive and pleasing environment. This unity in design not only enhances the aesthetic appeal of the area but also instills a sense of balance and peace in the community. As someone who appreciates the subtle dialogue between structures, I find that architectural harmony brings a unique character and soul to a neighborhood, making it not just a place to live, but a place to belong.
Every buyer has different priorities, and what is essential for one person might be less so for another. However, these elements are broadly recognized as contributing to a good quality of life in a neighborhood.
I feel very blessed to have lived in excellent neighborhoods where meals are shared, a cup of flower is borrowed, and a passive, "Hey, neighbor!" turns into a friendly front yard conversations. Having experienced the result of living in (what I consider) "good" neighborhoods as well as being an active participant in community events, service, and friendships, I genunily wish the same for all my clients.
I will close with one thought that I will follow up with on next weeks blog post:
Is a neighborhood as good as the neighbors make it?
And if so, what kind of neighbor are you?
Let me know your thoughts in the comments!
Jessica Doberneck of