So, you’ve made up your mind; it’s time to move, and whether it’s into your first home or onto your next chapter, you’re going to weigh certain factors before you even look at anything.
We’re called individuals for a reason, and no two people look for the exact same things in the place they call home. Different lifestyles, careers, spiritual beliefs, and interests pull us in different directions, toward various styles of dwellings. But it doesn’t matter whether you’re in the market for condo or back country living, many of today’s top criteria that peak the interests of buyers are highlighted on the several listing services available to customers.
Information like walking scores, proximity to various amenities like retail and transit, and the quality of local schools and neighborhoods is all made readily available. It feels like it’s all there, and with emotions running high during the excitement of narrowing down one’s search to the perfect home, one can easily forget to take the time to look to the future before putting down the deposit.
So, before you sign on the dotted line, go one step further to get an understanding of the community you want to call home. Is it considered a settlement or a hamlet? Is it referred to as a township or city? Is it historically significant? What are the geographical boundaries and what region, if any, does it belong to?
Knowing all this is vital because the neighborhood construct that you see today is certainly not what it once was, or what it may be in years to come. That’s because it’s all part of a plan; a master or official plan, and each and every municipality or region has one. These documents contain maps of each town, or town within each region and outline the planned projects, zoning, and protections in place for each area. Yes, they’re often extremely lengthy, and yes they’re always full of complex jargon. However, knowing information like this could save you from buying a home that will one day be located next to a sewage treatment plant, along an airport flight path, or adjacent to construction that will destroy a beautiful view.
Even the most seasoned and savvy of real estate professionals can only cover so much ground, so if this information isn’t provided to you, don’t be afraid to pose these questions and set your professional to the task. Whether your agent is familiar with your market area or not, they’re an advocate for you. These plans are all a matter of public record and can be found on the official websites for the respective governing body, simply by searching “official plan.” If that search doesn’t warrant any results, they can also call or visit either office directly.
Like most things in life, these plans are also subject to change as populations change, so pay close attention to the zoning maps. Land is classified into various areas called zones like Farmland, Environmental, Residential, Industrial, or Commercial, and numerically categorized as primary and secondary for priority. Signs of possible change can be found where “zones” overlap and intersect. You may see secondary environmental zone land overlapped with secondary aggregate zone land. This means the area has two possible uses and what is a natural space could end up being an active quarry one day.
Developers and landowners can also apply to make zoning changes at any given time during ownership, so once you’re in your happy home, pay close attention to the same municipal and regional websites, as well as local publications for zone change postings. Better still, take some time to sit in on, or tune into, municipal council proceedings where these sorts of changes are decided upon. The neighboring public is usually given a period for comment before such changes can be put through.
This all sounds somewhat time consuming, complicated and quite honestly daunting, now doesn’t it? But a good real estate agent can help gather, interpret, and present these types of details to you, and by educating yourself, you will feel much more confident and informed on your decision. And after all, with it being one of the single largest investments you will ever make in your lifetime, don’t you think you should be?