New Home Neighborhood Checklist

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■ Are the local schools good? (You can ask to see their scores on standardized tests to judge.) [ ] [ ]

■ Is the area relatively crime free? (Check with the police department's Public Affairs officer, who can usually give you crime statistics down to the block.) [ ] [ ]

■ Does the police department seem responsive? [ ] [ ]

■ Is there adequate fire protection? (Check with your insurance company for fire ratings in the area.) [ ] [ ]

■ Is the neighborhood "quiet"? (Come back at different times of the day to check.) [ ] [ ]

■ Are posted speed limits slow? (You want a 25 mph limit, not

■ Is there a high-traffic street nearby that cars shoot out of? [ ] [ ]

■ Are the lots "private" enough? [ ] [ ]

■ Is there danger of future erosion? (If you're not sure, check with a soils engineer.) [ ] [ ]

■ Does the water system provide pure drinking water? (The water company almost always must supply you with the results of water purity testing.) [ ] [ ]

■ Are there any special assessments that you'll have to pay

(Street improvement, sewer tax, and so on)? [ ] [ ]

■ Are there any nearby hazards or nuisances (Factories, swamps or rivers, oil tanks, hazardous waste facilities, and so on)? [ ] [ ]

■ Are the homes connected to a sewer system (septic systems are less desirable)? [ ] [ ]

In addition to the features of the house itself as well as the neighborhood, there is the factor of the new home market. The housing market is volatile, with many ups and downs. Here's what to look for.

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