Location, Location, Location

Location, location, location. Kind of like a magical spell isn't it? Well there's no magic involved in finding the right place to buy real estate, as either and investment or for your own home (which is still an investment really.)

Why repeat this phrase three times? Well that's how important it is. Thankfully there is almost a checklist of variables that you can use to ask your self enough questions that the answers will reveal just what location is prefect for you.

Generally the first step in the location tree is the urban, suburban, rural, branch. Determining which of these is perfect for you is crucial.

Urban Location

This century has been dubbed the century of the city. For the first time in the history of the earth, there are more people living in cities than in the country. This has been the case in the United States for quit some time. Obviously, urban are a hot ticket these days.

Strangers and Birds

Urban settings are almost as a rule, old. Don't let this scare you. When most people think of old, they think of out-dated, and decaying. Of course this isn't true. I like to think of old locations as settled. The area has had enough time to work itself out. Business will be well established and the owners are usually friendly. You will find the amenities that you are looking for, it's just a matter of your idiosyncrasies meshing with those of your urban neighbors.

As far as aesthetics go, the same rules apply. There always tends to be more trees in old urban areas, than say new subdivisions. There are also more sidewalks, streets and lanes. This means more shade, more interaction with your neighbors and more atmosphere.

It also means more leaves, more dodgy strangers and more bird-crap.

The organic waste, I'm you can deal with, but what about the strangers.

There is no escaping the fact that being in an urban area will put you in contact with dangerous people, or just people that have a very different lifestyle than yours (to put it diplomatically). If you fear strangers, are a single woman, or have small children, this might not be a great idea.

Try and keep an open mind as well. One of the best parts of living in an urban area is having your mind expanded by the different people you will meet. In an urban area everyday can be filled with surprises.


Schools are also very different in urban areas. In the suburbs you may be used to schools that are large, new and have all of the shinny new equipment that your children deserve. In older schools, this often is not the case. In the past forty years there are been almost no school construction in downtown areas. Most education budgets have been shifted over to the rapidly expanding suburbs.

However, urban schools have fought back in recent years by offering specialized training in , music, or art in hopes of luring children away from suburban schools. They can capitalize in their proximity to cultural hot spots.

On the flip side, you children probably won't have to get a ride to school in the morning, instead taking public transport, or just walking.

Old homes

You know what you are getting when you buy a suburban home. It will be clean, it will have all of the fixtures and amenities that you are accustomed to. And it will be large. These kinds of guarantees don't exist in urban areas. Houses are usually older and a little more run down.

You may have bugs, you may have leaks and you may have mice. Are you all right with that? These are all problems that can be solved, but it'll take a little bit of money, and a lot of tolerance. However, you home will probably be made with durable materials, and you are bound to find design anomalies that are specific to your home alone, such as stained glass, and oak banisters.

More Expensive

Urban homes are almost always more expensive. In most cases you can get double the square footage in the suburbs for the same price of an urban home. It is a trade-off, but be sure to check out the property taxes. Often property taxes are lower in older urban areas, because of the square footage issue.

Cities know that the best way to keep their downtown alive and thriving is to have people living there. Therefore, property taxes are often designed to keep people living close to where they work. So in the long run, tray and calculate how much money you will have on your taxes and how that might help you pay off a larger mortgage.

Suburban Location

While this century may be the century of the city all across the world, in the United States, it should be called the century of the suburb. Today people are moving to the suburbs in record numbers, and causing, some very curious population statistics. The following is a list of population center in the United States. Near the top are very obvious, cities like NY and LA. But about half way down the list are massive sprawling center like Jacksonville and Phoenix, who have large population, but because of suburbanization, they have very low population density.



Population (thousands)

Land area (sq. miles)

Density (average population per sq. mile)

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

New York, NY Los Angeles, CA Chicago, IL Houston, TX Philadelphia, PA San Diego, CA Detroit, MI Dallas, TX Phoenix, AZ San Antonio, TX

7,323 3,485 2,784 1,631 1,586 1,111 1,028 1,007 983 936

309 469 227 540 135 324 139 342 420 333

23,700 7,400 12,300 3,000 11,700 3,400 7,400 2,900 2,300 2,800

11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20

San Jose, CA Baltimore, MD Indianapolis, IN San Francisco, CA Jacksonville, FL Columbus, OH Milwaukee, WI Memphis, TN Washington, DC Boston, MA

782 736 731 724 635 633 628 610 607 574

171 81 362 47 759 191 96 256 61 48

4,600 9,100 2,000 15,500 800 3,300 6,500 2,400 9,900 11,900

If you noticed, Jacksonville has a population density almost one quarter that of New York. How does this relate to you and your plan to buy real estate in the suburbs? Let's examine.


The location of your home will have a huge impact on what taxes you pay. Property taxes are often compiled using such variables as size of your property and square footage of your residence. In the suburbs, both will be such higher than in urban areas. Often this money goes to building roads, streetlights, parks and schools that the neighborhood still needs, but haven't been built yet.

There is also a good chance that you will have to pay some sort of community tax to pay for community pools and even a neighborhood security force. So if you are investing in real estate there will be higher annual costs to maintain your home in the suburbs. However, you may have already saved some money on a reduced mortgage, so it's up to you to crunch the numbers.


If you have children this is a huge reason to move to the suburbs. Besides some specialty programs that urban schools have, suburban schools generally have all new equipment, bright large classrooms and excellent athletic facilities.

Educational boards have little choice but to place large amounts of money and resources into suburban schools. Partly because that's where the majority of new families are moving to, and partly because the tax base that pays for schools (middle class families).

If they didn't put their money into these areas they would have a hard time getting elected. Suburban schools also guarantee that you child will be going to school with similar children. You probably have less of a chance of exposing your children to outside danger, but of course, peer pressure exists in the suburbs as much as in the city.


The main reason to move to the suburbs, I think, is convenience and safety. You will never have to look for a parking lot. You will never have to drive down a dark alley, and you will never have to worry about strangers in your neighborhood.

This can be a comforting though for many. The suburban life is truly the quiet life, and it is what most American's want these days. Therefore, investing in real estate in the suburbs is your best bet to sell a home.

Rural Location

This is truly the location for a gambler. Rural property has been known to skyrocket in value, and then plummet just as fast. If this is the century of the city than every other century before it, was the century of the country.

In the country you will have very low property taxes and all of the space you could ever want. However, this very space could be the undoing of a great investment. While the city and the suburbs both offer a location that puts you at the heart of something. Rural locations take you away from that. Therefore, you only customers, whether you are buying, or thinking about future resale value are people who want to get away.


1. This is the golden word for those looking at rural properties. Land in the country can be cheap, but often it is cheap for a reason: there is nothing there. So, when you are looking to buy real estate in an urban location, you should carefully look at the city to make sure it is growing.

A growing city will ensure that people will start to get sick of competing for space. This will drive them to the country and right into your waiting arms.

Also, you may even be able to sell your home to developers who are renown for paying large sums of cash for relatively cheap properties. Also, keep in mind that, rural real estate is a long-term investment. If you really want to turn a small amount of cash into a huge pay day, you have to wait for at least 20 years, before the city catches up to it's growth spurt.

Schools and Amenities

2. You may be miles and miles away from any of the amenities that you are used to. This includes grocery shopping and schools. You should make sure that if there is no school close by, there is at least an easy way to get there. Or, if the city is indeed growing, that they may be building a school close by.

Never underestimate how important schools are to prospective homeowners. However, often those who move to the country have already moved away from their children and are looking for some peace and quiet.

Location, Location, Location

It seems that this word repeated three times, actually means urban location, suburban location, and rural location. Choose which one seems right for you, and judge all of the risks and benefits involved. There is no universal right or wrong answer, and you'll probably get something out of all three.