Location is a top factor in buying a home. Even though your realtor can give you the 411 on the locale, it's imperative to gather more information on your own. You have to tour the area, look it up on the Web, scour for mention of it in the news, and ask about it from people who know it well.
And who better to approach than the locals themselves? Smile, knock on the door, introduce yourself, and tell your potential new neighbor that you're thinking of moving into the house next door. If he would be so kind as to give you a moment of his day, perhaps you can ask him a few questions about the neighborhood?
Use these questions to help you with your research:
How long have you lived here?
Open with this question. Someone who has lived in the area for a few years should know it well.
What do you like about the neighborhood?
Get to know the neighborhood's good side. You can also ask after certain features you're looking for, or that you're interested in, such as the local playground, the fitness center, the nearest park, and other amenities.
Is it a quiet at night?
It's difficult to tell whether night-time brings peace and quiet during the home viewing. Better ask the neighbors instead.
Is there crime in the area?
Ask whether there have been break-ins or muggings in the past, and whether they should be cause for concern. Ask after the security provided in the area.
Does it flood?
Looks can be deceiving. Ask the neighbors how the area holds up during a typhoon.
Are water and electricity constant in this area?
Some neighborhoods suffer constant brownouts and often get their water cut off. Ask the neighbors whether this happens in the area.
Is there anything inconvenient about this location?
Try to glean whether there are hidden downsides to the area. Traffic might prove difficult, for instance.