Allie Rossini’s out-of-town buyers were looking for the perfect location in St. Louis for their new home. The wife was tired of her hour-long commute; and in order to help avoid another long drive to her relocated position downtown, Rossini, an agent with Laura McCarthy Real Estate, geared the search toward properties in Clayton, Webster Groves and the central corridor. But when the family couldn’t find the space or newer construction they desired, the focused switched to Chesterfield. “They struggled with deciding whether to buy something closer to avoid the commute, or move out farther for the space,” Rossini says. “After making the drive several times and interviewing different schools, they chose Chesterfield and are very happy. There are always going to be give and takes.”
Many potential home buyers face the same dilemma as Rossini’s clients: finding the right location to fit their needs. It is a key consideration when choosing a home, and there are multiple factors that can affect the decision. “You have to remember that you can change the house, but you can’t change the location,” says Prudential Alliance agent Tina Niemann.
When searching for a home, buyers may enter the process with a specific area or neighborhood in mind. While agents will show the buyers homes in that location, they also give them the opportunity to see properties in other locations to make sure they are aware of all the options, Niemann says. “I will drive them all over so they see all of the areas before we zero in on particular houses. They may not know much about a certain area, but subsequently realize it’s actually the better location for them.”
While location always has been at the forefront of real estate, that concept is not always expanded on, says Prudential Alliance agent Jiggs Dunn. “Everyone says location, location, location, but the part no one adds is that you need to consider both general and specific—you can have a great house on a great street in a great school district, but it backs up to a highway.”
In the general realm, Rossini recommends that home buyers first determine what lifestyle they want, whether it’s a quiet, suburban one with large yards, or a bustling urban one close to shops and restaurants. “They need to feel safe in the environment, so I encourage my buyers to drive through the neighborhoods at different times and on different days, to make sure they’re comfortable. They also need to decide how close they want to be to work or school.”
For buyers with children or possible future children, the school district is a major determining factor, and Rossini often provides ratings information to aid in that decision. Like her Chesterfield buyers, families often will tour or interview several schools to make sure they meet their children’s needs. When it gets down to specifics, she points out other, smaller elements that may be overlooked during the search. “Some people are very particular about the neighborhood having sidewalks or streetlights in certain areas, and that can bother them later,” she notes.
Resale value is an important issue when determining the best location. “Every house has an objection, but if it’s a problem with the location that can’t be changed—a high tension wire running through the backyard, railroad tracks behind the house or loud street noise—that can make it difficult to resell in a tough market,” Dunn says.
Because there are so many factors that go into location, education is key and the situation is personalized for each buyer, especially when the decision comes down to two different houses in two different locations. “I have my clients write down a pros and cons list for properties, and that can help determine what’s most important to them for location,” Rossini says. “But it always needs to be looked at as a total package.”