Moving into a new house is stressful, no matter how you approach it. There’s the expense, the chaos of physically moving all of your stuff, not to mention finding your new home in the first place. We all do a lot of research and due diligence when looking for a new home for our family, but that research tends to be focused exclusively on the house itself. When it comes to the location of that house, the research can get a little muddy.

You probably have a good idea of the general area you want to live in, but what about the specific block you’ll be moving into? A few years ago, Trulia coined the term “neighborhood regret” when a survey they conducted revealed that 36% of homebuyers wished they’d bought into a different neighborhood. Are your neighbors going to steal every package you have delivered, or will you be embroiled in endless drama with them? How can you tell if you’re about to join a thriving, friendly community or step into a hell composed of other people?

It’s impossible to know for sure until you live there, but there are some signs you can look for during your house hunt.

Home maintenance

Ask any real estate professional: The level of upkeep and maintenance by a homeowner is very telling. Not only does a poorly maintained home probably have hidden damage and defects that will need to be repaired, but a poorly maintained house will negatively impact all the houses around it.

A single ramshackle house with a sagging roof and an ancient, rusting washing machine on the front lawn is one thing—multiple homes in disrepair are a big red flag that the whole neighborhood has gone to seed. If you see several houses featuring any of these signs of neglect, it’s time to reconsider your neighborhood choice:

Lack of landscaping (overgrown grass, uncontrolled weeds)

Sagging or missing fence

Peeling exterior paint or damaged siding

Garbage and junk piled up in the yard

Damaged roof

Crumbling concrete steps or walkways


An obvious red flag for a neighborhood is the noise level—but it’s easy to assume that high noise levels are temporary. After all, that guy across the street can’t be revving his motorbike or his chainsaw every day, can he?

It’s essential to visit your prospective new neighborhood on different days and at night. You’ll learn a lot about what life is really like there. A few signs that this neighborhood is not your new home include:

Noise. It’s an obvious red flag, but if you only see the neighborhood during the day when adults are at work and kids are at school you don’t know the true volume levels you’ll be dealing with. You also need to ascertain if some of your neighbors just have extremely loud hobbies, or like to blast music from their car stereo for hours every day while they work out in their garage.

No noise. On the other end of the scale is a lack of people and noise. If the neighborhood is terrifyingly dark and empty at night, ask yourself if you’ll be comfortable walking around or letting your kids play when the sun goes down. If it’s also a ghost town during the daylight hours, that can indicate an unfriendly atmosphere and a lack of neighborly camaraderie.

For sale signs

You feel lucky to have found a house in your price range in the area you want to be in. That’s great. Unless there’s a very good reason for the low price.

If you notice that the neighborhood has a lot of homes for sale, this could be a red flag that something is driving people away. It could be anything—a rise in crime, quality-of-life issues, or simple coincidence—but a large number of “for sale” signs should prompt you to hit pause and do some more digging before you make any final decisions.

Speed bumps

You probably don’t think twice when you drive over a speed bump—they’re a common way to force people to slow down. But if the quiet residential street you’re considering moving into has speed bumps every few feet, it might be a sign that your cute spot is a cut-through for impatient drivers trying to avoid nearby traffic. Unless you enjoy the sound of cars bottoming out when they hit a speed bump way too fast and briefly attain flight, or like the sense of danger involved in a dark quiet street being invaded by tired, speeding drivers, this is a sign that you should at least ask around a bit to find out how big of a problem it is.

Crime rates

This one might seem obvious, but most homebuyers rely more on their impression of a neighborhood than actual stats. It’s important to remember that not all crime is violent crime—a neighborhood might be plagued by petty thieves, vandals, traffic scofflaws, or residents who disturb the peace.

One simple red flag to look for? Fortifications. If all the houses on the block have bars on the windows and gated porch areas, if everyone has security cameras and big signs announcing alarm systems, it often means the neighborhood was not particularly safe at some point.

You can get a quick glimpse of the crime in your area with a site like Niche, which uses local and federal databases to calculate crime rates, and sites like SpotCrime will show you a map or list of recent police activity in that particular neighborhood. This won’t be comprehensive, but if you see a long list of arrests and other crime-related problems it’s a sign that your cute, quiet prospective neighborhood isn’t that cute or quiet. And while you’re doing your research, why not check to see if there are any registered sex offenders living there, too? The Department of Justice maintains a searchable database you can use, and the site Family Watchdog offers a similar database.


Most people love dogs, and having dogs in your new neighborhood is probably not a bad thing. But there’s a difference between neighbors who take their leashed pets for a walk and neighbors who let their dogs run wild. Aggressive dogs can be dangerous, and dogs left outdoors at all times can be a loud annoyance.

You can also often judge the character of potential neighbors by the way they treat animals. Pets who are left outside in the heat or cold, who are chained up and given little space to move around in, or who are generally mistreated are not only heartbreaking, but they indicate that the human being in charge of them isn’t going to value your health and safety very much, either.