Tell-tale signs of the neighborhood’s decline? • Seattle bubble

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Here’s a question I received via email from a reader:

As a real estate buyer, here is a major concern I have when buying a home for the long term.

I bought a house in Phoenix a few years ago where the development was built in the 70’s. At the time, it seemed like a good buy. However, a few years later it was evident that the neighborhood was in significant decline – for example, a neighboring house was known to be a supplier of drugs.

The number of cars parked on the street (again, this was a development built in the 1970s where two garages were part of the set) was on the rise.

After I bought I realized the neighborhood was in decline and sold about two years later.

I haven’t bought a house since, and one of the reasons is that I realize I don’t know how to tell if a neighborhood is in decline. No advice?

It’s difficult. I’m not sure there’s really a good way to get a sense of where a neighborhood is heading (improvement vs. decline) without actually living there. You can certainly try to look at various statistics like business open / close, income, etc., but the problem is that they are often difficult to find at a more precise level than zip codes.

Probably the best way I can think of to get a feel for the trend of a neighborhood like this would be to ask people who have lived there for a while. Spend some time with the county records looking for homes that have been owned by the same people for ten years or more, and knock on their door and strike up a conversation on a Saturday.

I realize this is a pretty drastic suggestion in a place as antisocial as Seattle, but it might work well.

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