Understanding the Neighborhoods
in Kansas City
This stage of your market research is done on the scene, driving or walking slowly through the streets. That’s the only successful way to canvass a neighborhood in or around Kansas City.
What, exactly, defines “a neighborhood”?
It may be a grouping of houses around a physical landmark, such as a park, marina, valley, or hill. It can be as small as one block, or large enough to surround a fashionable shopping area.
When you start looking for a neighborhood, think about what you want in terms of proximity to people and goods and services. Do you want to be close enough to stores so you can get there on foot or bicycle? Do you want a closely knit community where everybody knows everybody else, or a more impersonal place? A huge apartment house can be a neighborhood all by itself, where you nod to people in the elevators for years without ever knowing their names.
Drive around and investigate neighborhoods in the car, then get out and walk around those which really interest you. You learn a lot on foot! Ideally, you shouldn’t tackle more than three neighborhoods in one day, because no matter how good an observer you are, communities will start to blend together in your mind.
If you see a “For Sale by Owner” sign as you walk, go into the house and look around. If you see a place under renovation, stop and speak to the contractor. Or if you notice an ad about a neighborhood block association meeting or a house tour, take advantage of it. You want to educate yourself as much as possible about the community before you even begin to think of buying there. It’s like marriage – you’ve got to know the potential spouse before you make the big decision.
What are you looking for as you scout around an area?
- Are yards well landscaped? Or are they filled with weeds? Are there broken-down cars and bikes in the yard? That’s a sign of sloppy homeowners and a lack of community concern.
- If you’re looking in a city, are there vacant lots? Boarded-up stores? How long have they been that way? The neighborhood may be in a state of deterioration.
- Do children play in the streets? This could be good or bad. It might be a sign of a safe community, or it could indicate there are no playgrounds or parks available. Cul-de-sacs or dead-end streets are very desirable for kids, since they mean no speeding traffic.
- Do you see older people sitting on porches as well as children outside? A sign of good balance in the population.
- Are the residential neighborhoods sprinkled with commercial establishments? Many homeowners like having a corner grocer, a few boutiques, and some popular restaurants nearby. Of course, the encroachment of shopping malls or industry with large parking lots would be a different story.
- How close is the nearest highway? Do you hear a lot of traffic as you walk the streets? Is it safe for kids?
- How’s the public transportation? Is it near enough to be convenient but distant enough not to be noisy?
- Are you too close to the airport or a railroad? An all-night disco? Noise pollution could be a problem.
- If you’re looking in a city, are there iron bars on all the windows? This sign is self-explanatory. Who wants to live in a prison or high crime area?
Make yourself a list of pros and cons. No one neighborhood will be perfect, but there will be some whose faults you can overlook because their positive qualities overcome their liabilities.
Ask T. J. Lamb, T.J. Lamb Real Estate, about Kansas City neighborhoods.
This Home Buying Tip was excerpted from:
The Smart Woman’s Guide To Buying And Renovating Real Estate For Profit, by Suzanne Brangham, Clarkson N. Potter, Inc., 1987.