You can learn a lot about the character of a neighborhood just by driving around. Also, consider talking to some of the neighbors about concerns such as:
*How do the children routinely reach their schools, play areas and friends' homes — by walking, bicycle, bus or do parents drive them?
*Is public transportation available for commuting or shopping?
*How far away is your place of worship?
*Do any local ordinances affect pets, parking, lawn care or other activities?
*What are the disadvantages of the neighborhood? Freeway, railroad or airplane noise? Factory pollution, heavy traffic, exposure to heavy storms, possible flooding?
*Are there homeowners' association restrictions?
Here are some additional sources for gathering neighborhood information:
*Drop in on local school board, government or other open community meetings.
*Visit the schools.
*Dine and shop in local establishments.
*Subscribe and read the community newspaper.
Remember, if you're looking at a well-regarded, established neighborhood or an up-and-coming one, you may find it worth the extra money you'll have to put into the purchase of the home. On the other hand, if the neighborhood is past its peak, you may want to lower your offer accordingly.