7 Red Flags of a Bad Neighborhood

neighborhood, buyer, buyer beware, beware, real estate, red flagsFinally, you’ve done it: You’ve scoured the market for available homes and found one you can’t stop thinking about. It’s time to make an offer!

But before you put your money on the line, take a peek around the neighborhood. A bad neighborhood isn’t always obvious; sometimes you need to do a little digging to know if a community is worth buying in. We’ve identified 7 red flags of a bad neighborhood before you sign on the dotted line.

Red flag #1: Too many houses are on the market

There’s nothing wrong with two or three listed houses on the same street. But if you see an army of “For Sale” signs, consider looking elsewhere.

The hue of this red flag depends on the reason for those “For Sale” signs. Perhaps the neighborhood is rapidly gentrifying and longtime residents have decided to cash in. Maybe there are many older residents who are downsizing. Or maybe there’s a more sinister explanation, like increasing crime rates. Do your homework to assess the situation before making any big moves.

Red flag #2: The schools are enrolling fewer students

Schools in healthy communities should be steadily increasing their enrollment—or at least keeping the population steady, if there’s no physical room to grow. Shrinking class sizes are a red flag!

There are a number of reasons enrollment might decrease. Your local school might have a reputation for poor management. Or perhaps residents are staying put as their kids grow up, leading to older neighbors and fewer close-by pals for your kids. That may or may not be a deal breaker, but it’s certainly something to consider.

Red flag #3: The area leans industrial

A nearby strip of cute boutique stores might be a nice selling point, but reconsider the purchase if the closest commercial influences lean toward the industrial. Any nearby industrial plants should automatically nix a neighborhood. Think long and hard before buying across from a car dealership or auto body shop, which attract a lot of car traffic.

Red flag #4: There are lots of empty storefronts

Don’t just stop at counting boutiques versus gas stations. Are the stores actually thriving, or are there lots of retail spaces for rent? Why does that matter? Decreased disposable income indicates a neighborhood on the decline. If homeowners don’t have money for dinner out, then they probably don’t have cash for upkeep. Shabby homes drag down property values. Meager cash flow can also lead to future foreclosures—and a foreclosed-upon home is a neighbor that no one wants.

Red flag #5: The Stepford style is in full force

You might love the homogeneous, well-groomed suburban look (and there’s nothing wrong with that!). But take a moment to examine it more closely. Are there any unique decorative doodads dotting each garden, or is the front porch furniture identical? If all the neighborhood’s homes (and landscaping) look suspiciously similar, then you may want to look into how restrictive the homeowners association is.

Red flag #6: There’s no parking

Sure, the property may have a one-car garage—but where will your friends park, and where can you keep your spouse’s car? If the streets have bumper-to-bumper traffic, think twice about buying in the neighborhood—especially if the home lacks a garage or carport. Visit at night or on weekends to tell what will be available to you once you live there.

Red flag #7: Surrounding homes aren’t well-maintained

A street in shambles might seem like an obvious red flag. But you also might have heard that buying the best house in the worst neighborhood is a prime opportunity for profit.

Tread lightly here: A street full of run-down homes with overgrown yards and broken fences should set off warning signals. And this has nothing to do with wealth; lower-income neighborhoods can be just as well-kept as more expensive ones. It’s about pride. Neighbors with no pride in their home’s appearance and upkeep decrease property values for everyone.

Plus, problems with the homes next door can indicate that the house you want might have bigger issues than meet the eye. Look at every house on the block for issues such as water pooling in the yards, or flickering porch lights.

Article originally appeared on Realtor.com.

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