[NOTE: This the first in a series of four articles on Guerilla Playborhood Hunting Techniques. The second article is about researching neighborhood reputations, the third article is about researching neighbors online, and the fourth article discusses what to look for and do when visiting a neighborhood around a home for sale.]
My wife and I have made “Neighborhood for Kids” – i.e. a Playborhood – our #1 criterion in searching for a home in Palo Alto and Menlo Park. Think about that for a moment. It makes searching for a house extremely difficult, given the information that the real estate industry provides us.
Basically, all that stuff other than price that we see on all the real estate sites and the newspapers is useless to us before we find a house in a neighborhood we like. Architectural style? Whatever. Bedrooms, baths, and square footage? All that may be important, but it’s *secondary*. None of these things can give our kids a good life like a Playborhood can.Think of online dating if your first criterion was looks (nooo, not you!), but there were no photos of prospective mates on the site. You’d waste an awful lot of time going on first dates with people you’re absolutely not attracted to. You know it as soon as you walk in the cafe, but then it’s too late. Another wasted hour…
That’s analogous to what used to happen to my wife and me countless times when we went house hunting over the past two years. We’d go to see houses that have good “locations,” nice photos and the right numbers of bedrooms and baths, only to discover almost every time that the neighborhood would be dead boring for our kids.
So, over these past two years, we’ve gotten smarter by necessity. It’s been painful because we’ve had to invent guerilla Playborhood hunting techniques on our own. In this series of articles, I’ll share our techniques, scrappy and unconventional as they are.
In the meantime, we’ll be providing tools to make it even easier on Playborhood Local sites. The first of these is Neighborhood Reviews (for instance, see the Playborhood Palo Alto / Menlo Park Neighborhood Reviews page. In these Reviews, users can rate a neighborhood around a house for sale from one to five stars, and they can describe the kid population, their frequency of outdoor play, and community among adults there. Unfortunately, it will take some time before we get enough Neighborhood Reviews to make our guerilla househunting techniques obsolete.
So, what are these guerilla househunting techniques that help us to avoid those “worthless first dates?” In the three upcoming articles on this topic, I’ll share three levels of research I use to hunt for Playborhoods, starting with the most superficial: 1) researching neighborhood reputation, 2) searching about neighbors of a home for sale online, and 3) visit the neighborhood and talk to neighbors.