I found a Hamilton County house that I love, but I don't know much about the neighborhood. How can I tell if it's good or not?

question markInvestigate! Since the neighborhood you choose to buy in is just as important as the house you select (it really does always comes down to location), you'll want to gather as much evidence as you can before setting your heart on a particular home.

Before you even begin your home search, start by figuring out what it is you want in a  neighborhood. New or established? Walkable or reliant on a vehicle? Neighborhood association or no neighborhood association? A 10-minute jaunt to work or a 30 minute commute? Defining exactly what you need in a neighborhood will make it easier to jump right into the real detective work once you find a house you like. Neighborhood Investigation 101 requires that you....

Go Back to School. Kids or no kids, you'll want a neighborhood in a respected school district. It increases the value of your home and will make it easier to sell in the future. Check out www.greatschools.org to see school ratings for your area.

Use Your Senses. Visit the neighborhoods you are interested in and visit often, using all your sensory powers. A seemingly peaceful neighborhood may suddenly come alive — and not in a good way — when school is out. That sewage lift station around the corner may be more fragrant in the afternoons than the early mornings. The For Sale and For Lease signs you see all around aren’t a good sign; nor are neglected yards and exterior home repairs.

Run the numbers.  Have your REALTOR® provide you with the recent selling history of your neighborhood. If houses typically sell within three months for close to asking price, you've probably got yourself a winner. On the other hand, if houses linger on the market with several price reductions, consider it a warning sign. Are there a lot of foreclosures and short sales in the neighborhood? Also a warning sign.

Sales statistics aren't the only numbers you'll want to take a look at. Ask your local police department for a crime report for the neighborhood you are considering. The more crimes reported, the less desirable the neighborhood. Duh.

Go with your gut. If a neighborhood gives you warm fuzzies as soon as you enter it, that’s a good thing! If it doesn’t, keep looking. There are plenty of houses out there!