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Two questions, one specific, one more general

1. Where can I find out about possible air quality issues? One neighborhood is fairly near some kind of power plant. How do I determine if this is an issue?

2. What else do you look for, when driving around checking out areas? Where do you ask to find out more, that kind of thing? I remember years ago I chose our neighborhood partly because it had a lot of basketball hoops up at the time, which meant kids in the area, and it was walking distance to the elementary school my son would attend. Now that we homeschool, I'm not looking for down the street from a school. But what else? I'm thinking proximity to a Target and a Starbucks with a drive thru are top priorities, lol. But what else? (I'm also looking at distance/drive to my various family members and the university my husband teaches at, etc). Oh, and maybe sidewalks....unless we get into a more rural area, sidewalks for bike rides and walking the dog are important. Otherwise??

I will also of course look into HOA restrictions, etc but I'll do that on the internet. Also FEMA evacuation zones/flood zones (Florida - hurricanes are a thing!)

But for actually driving around to check places out (hoping to do that this week coming up) I'm not sure...just gut reaction? 

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Emergency services response time. 
We don’t have quick ones, but we’re used to it, so it didn’t matter to us that we’re going to have the same exact distance, but it’s still important to know. 
 

I don’t know if there’s a place to look those up, I just know from experience. 
You could try Facebook groups.

There’s a closed group for the neighborhood we’re moving to. They let my husband in, but not me. So... that’s a thing. 

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I think this is the kind of thing that’s going to be very individual and regional. 
 

We prefer older, in town neighborhoods with character; we often live adjacent to college campuses. We like communities that are walkable (sidewalks, and also somewhere to go) and within walking distance to downtown or restaurants, cafes, bookshops and so on.
 

We wouldn’t choose subdivisions or gated/HOA type neighborhoods, or anywhere cut off from town by highways etc. We would never live rural or in an area where we didn’t have stuff nearby. I am more comfortable having close neighbors and we dislike large yards/property so that kind of thing would be an immediate no from us. 
 

One thing we were looking for when we moved to our current home, which probably doesn’t apply to you, is that we made sure that the town isn’t seasonal—we wanted to be within a certain driving distance of DH's job, and it was important to us to live in a year round community (not one that shutters in winter). 

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In our neighborhood when a house is for sale, the neighbors usually ‘happen’ to be outside when someone looks at it (mostly late afternoons and weekends). Our neighbors did that when we bought 2 years ago and we did that when the house next door was for sale last year. We’re interested in knowing who is moving in as much as the buyer is interested in finding out about the neighborhood. We talk about stuff good and bad- it seems to work. 

My weather app on my iPhone will give air quality info, from something called breezeometer.  It’s not perfect but it’s a start. 

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Because I have a kid with a sound sensitivity, I'd want to know the general noise level and also if there are any weird smells.  I also would want to know if there are tulip trees around, because those are (other than lilies), by far my worst allergic response.  I'd want to drive by at different times of day.  And even if you're homeschooling, school districts do have an impact on resale value. 

 

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We went to the local mall and walked around at various times to get a feel for who lived and worked there.  And to the local parks.  Those work off of a gut feel sometimes. We drove around noticing the restaurants and Home Depots and various businesses.  Again at various times of time and in the evening, once we thought we liked a particular area.  
 

We insisted on a neighborhood with sidewalks because our kids were still younger, and because I like sidewalks 🙂

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I would check for overall noise levels (air traffic, train, etc.)

I would check not just for distance for commutes but for how well traffice moves.  Being one mile from your destination, but having difficulty pulling out into traffic and sitting at a traffic light through several changes can be much more time consuming and frustrating than being 10 miles away.  I would check for those traffic patterns at varying times of the day--morning commute, as schools get out, afternoon commutes, Saturday afternoon, etc.  

I would pay attention for potential changes in development.  If you have an existing area that is built-up it is easier to tell.  But, if it is a newer area, is it possible that the large area where you turn into the neighborhood will become a Walmart and you will have traffic coming in and out of a parking lot?

If you are looking for sidewalks to ride bikes, check the local ordinances.  Some places allow (encouarge) bicycles on sidewalks.  In other communities you will be ticketed for cycling on the sidewalk.  

It is not always possible in the US, but I would look at how easily I could get to public transportation (or even get an Uber) from my location. Even if I do not think I will use it often, I never know when I might need to get somewhere and I, or another family member, is not able to drive.  

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2 hours ago, ktgrok said:

Two questions, one specific, one more general

1. Where can I find out about possible air quality issues? One neighborhood is fairly near some kind of power plant. How do I determine if this is an issue?

If you use an iPhone, your weather app should have the air quality between the the forecast and the sunrise and sunset time.

You can also download the AirNow app from the EPA to check on air quality.

2 hours ago, ktgrok said:

2. What else do you look for, when driving around checking out areas? Where do you ask to find out more, that kind of thing? I remember years ago I chose our neighborhood partly because it had a lot of basketball hoops up at the time, which meant kids in the area, and it was walking distance to the elementary school my son would attend. Now that we homeschool, I'm not looking for down the street from a school. But what else? I'm thinking proximity to a Target and a Starbucks with a drive thru are top priorities, lol. But what else? (I'm also looking at distance/drive to my various family members and the university my husband teaches at, etc). Oh, and maybe sidewalks....unless we get into a more rural area, sidewalks for bike rides and walking the dog are important. Otherwise??

I would say look at a reasonable school district as much as you can because of resale value. The pro is school district is one of the reasons our house shot up in price and cost more. But more than made up in equity. It also means higher taxes in TX, so check that for your state. Ours was a new build so most of our neighbors were people with kids. 

When we bought our house the price was affordable for us because it was in a semi-rural area. It was a huge ranch that was sold for subdivisions.  We were at the edge of the school district we wanted but the area made it affordable for us to live on DH's salary only which was our criteria. So it did not have much of stores or amenities. Sidewalks were only in the neighborhood. Fast forward 4 years and we have different kinds of American and ethnic restaurants, a huge hospital, a superwalmart. We are 20 minutes from another which looks like a mini mall and has a Claire's and Fedex Kinko inside with the usual salon, bank. So what I will say is, if you can get your house at a lower price because of less amenities, it is worth it to wait for a few years if you can drive a bit longer.

Amazon delivers, I doubt they don't in a new neighborhood, but we had a bit of an issue around 6 months for food delivery. But this was in the stone age time before food delivery companies existed so now could be different. Look for amenities offered. We declined places with a gym as part of the amenities, but pool was ok for us though we hardly use it. 

2 hours ago, ktgrok said:

I will also of course look into HOA restrictions, etc but I'll do that on the internet. Also FEMA evacuation zones/flood zones (Florida - hurricanes are a thing!)

But for actually driving around to check places out (hoping to do that this week coming up) I'm not sure...just gut reaction? 

Flood zones should be disclosed to you when you are looking at houses by the seller or realtor. Each state has regulations as far as I know. Some do not, so look up your state regulations.

Look at HOA regulations for each property you visit, they can be generic, then something could cause you to walk away. Read everything. Check if they will let you put up a child's play structure if that is important to you, have a shed, how they deal with basketball hoops, flagpole, decoration on side of building. A lot of people in our neighborhood liked to have the TX star on the side of the house, ran smack dab into the HOA.

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1 hour ago, Terabith said:

Because I have a kid with a sound sensitivity, I'd want to know the general noise level and also if there are any weird smells.  I also would want to know if there are tulip trees around, because those are (other than lilies), by far my worst allergic response.  I'd want to drive by at different times of day.  And even if you're homeschooling, school districts do have an impact on resale value. 

 

FYI, I saw recently that Realtor.com lists noise levels for properties!

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For noise- you can check for airplane lines of flights, trains, and police shooting ranges, bmx parks, stadiums and places with music/lights/fireworks.  Folks in neighborhoods near us are often surprised at how the sound travels, even though they didn’t think they were very close.  We live over 2 miles from a bmx park and can still hear the loudspeakers and music at times.

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When we’ve moved transcontinental, I’ve not had time to check out these things, but for the couple of close moves we’ve done I have been sure to drive through the neighborhood or even park and observe

(1) at night

(2) during/immediately following a heavy rain

I also eliminate close proximity to electric company substations and high power lines, and houses that would be positioned on a street in a way they’d be a drunk/distracted driver’s target. And I wouldn’t front or back up to a high traffic road. 
 

Yeah, I’m picky about location. 
 

As far as HOA’s, make sure you read all the property covenants and get details about how/when fees might be increased and what you can/cannot do on your own property or with your own house. 

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32 minutes ago, ktgrok said:

FYI, I saw recently that Realtor.com lists noise levels for properties!

I just tried it for area I know that would be noisy- bmx park, airport, train, stadium etc.  it didn’t pick any of that up.

from what I could see, their noise levels were based upon street traffic.

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When we were house shopping 16 years ago, we tried to get a feel for the overall sense of community of our shortlisted neighborhoods by driving through morning, mid day and early evening.  We were looking for pride in ownership and a place that was family oriented - were the houses decently maintained, were there kids outside playing, did people wave at others, etc.  I would try to get a feel for how strict an HOA is and if that’s something I want.  Are there things walkable if desired? How convenient are grocery stores and other stores I frequent. 

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Thanks for the ideas! I don't anticipate any of them being walkable, or having public transportation available, but Lyft/Uber are pretty ubiquitous. One area on our possible list doesn't get Shipt or other delivery which is lame, but all the others would. I'll definitely keep an ear out for noise, and look for potential sources now that I know the realtor.com thing isn't very accurate!

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Assessing noise levels can be tricky.  We rented a house in our neighborhood before buying.  So, we are now living just a few blocks from where we retned.  We moved closer to the train switching station, but we get less noise from it.  We must be directly under the path at which the airlift heliccoptors fly in to the the hospital area a few miles away.  It isn't a constant noise, but it is disturbing in the middle of the night when it sounds as if a helicoptor will land on your house (and they you feel bad because you know someone has a serious emergency.  We did not hear those helicoptors just a few blocks away.  

If I were moving to a new area, and was deciding between a few neighborhoods I would check and see if I liked the grocery stores in the neighborhood and would want to choose a neighborhood close to the church community I wanted to be part of.  

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1 minute ago, Bootsie said:

Assessing noise levels can be tricky.  We rented a house in our neighborhood before buying.  So, we are now living just a few blocks from where we retned.  We moved closer to the train switching station, but we get less noise from it.  We must be directly under the path at which the airlift heliccoptors fly in to the the hospital area a few miles away.  It isn't a constant noise, but it is disturbing in the middle of the night when it sounds as if a helicoptor will land on your house (and they you feel bad because you know someone has a serious emergency.  We did not hear those helicoptors just a few blocks away.  

If I were moving to a new area, and was deciding between a few neighborhoods I would check and see if I liked the grocery stores in the neighborhood and would want to choose a neighborhood close to the church community I wanted to be part of.  

Yes, church and grocery store are definitely things I'm looking at!

I actually live right now where we get those trauma helicopters a few times a day some days, plus in the flight path for a small airport (think personal aircraft sized), plus hear the train at night, lol. Oh, and we can hear the loudspeaker for the local elementary school less than a mile away!

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We looked for a street that was already built up so there'd be no surprised buildings going up all around us, but we were more than fine with the area growing so our property values would go up.  We looked for good schools and a diverse community so our kids would be educated and well rounded.  Even though we mostly homeschooled, one child went to developmental preschool and the other went to high school.  Those decisions would have been much harder without a great school system.  Before we moved here, we were already drawn here for weekend shopping and activities.  Now that my kids are grown, I can look back and see what else we loved the most was a location that was minutes from the kids' regular activities, a network of community gyms and pools, a walkable neighborhood with a culture of kids playing outside, a decently educated population that supports the libraries and the arts, access to quality medical care, and a community that is appealing to every stage of life.  I guess normal people just move when they outgrow a place, but we are not people who are particularly motivated move.  We bought a house that was plenty big enough for our family but not too big for when the kids are grown.  To be honest, a lot of that was luck and our checklist wasn't THAT fine-tuned in our twenties, but we really like it here.  The extensive network of paved bike paths has been really really nice too, but we knew we loved those all along. 😁

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34 minutes ago, KungFuPanda said:

We looked for a street that was already built up so there'd be no surprised buildings going up all around us, but we were more than fine with the area growing so our property values would go up.  We looked for good schools and a diverse community so our kids would be educated and well rounded.  Even though we mostly homeschooled, one child went to developmental preschool and the other went to high school.  Those decisions would have been much harder without a great school system.  Before we moved here, we were already drawn here for weekend shopping and activities.  Now that my kids are grown, I can look back and see what else we loved the most was a location that was minutes from the kids' regular activities, a network of community gyms and pools, a walkable neighborhood with a culture of kids playing outside, a decently educated population that supports the libraries and the arts, access to quality medical care, and a community that is appealing to every stage of life.  I guess normal people just move when they outgrow a place, but we are not people who are particularly motivated move.  We bought a house that was plenty big enough for our family but not too big for when the kids are grown.  To be honest, a lot of that was luck and our checklist wasn't THAT fine-tuned in our twenties, but we really like it here.  The extensive network of paved bike paths has been really really nice too, but we knew we loved those all along. 😁

Wow!  Your area sounds pretty awesome!!!

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Ask the police for their 6 month crime log.  Check out the graffiti in the restrooms of public spaces. Do the commute from the location at rush hour.  Ask the local schools about community involvement.  Sit outside the house at rush snd school bus hours.  

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We walked through our potential neighbourhoods at different times of day and different days of the week. Walking lets you hear more, as if you were in your own garden.

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2 hours ago, Laura Corin said:

We walked through our potential neighbourhoods at different times of day and different days of the week. Walking lets you hear more, as if you were in your own garden.

Yes, do try to walk it.  You may get a completely different perspective. We thought we wanted to live in a particular neighborhood... until we walked it.  We discovered that many people there kept their dogs in the front yard, since it was easier to access that from the main floor.  A few dogs were tied, but most appeared to have invisible fencing. We walked for fifteen minutes and saw six or seven dogs outside. In that time, several dogs barked at us from a few feet away, following us as we walked the sidewalk edging their properties; two were particularly unfriendly. It was a little stressful, and it would have been worse if we'd had our own dog with us.  That made us realize we wanted an area with fenced back yards, so we could enjoy our walks more.

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12 hours ago, Bootsie said:

I would check not just for distance for commutes but for how well traffice moves.  Being one mile from your destination, but having difficulty pulling out into traffic and sitting at a traffic light through several changes can be much more time consuming and frustrating than being 10 miles away.  I would check for those traffic patterns at varying times of the day--morning commute, as schools get out, afternoon commutes, Saturday afternoon, e

This is a good one. My mom lives near a Target and I live pretty far from one. But it takes us nearly the same amount of drive time. Traffic patterns matter!

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9 hours ago, KungFuPanda said:

We looked for a street that was already built up so there'd be no surprised buildings going up all around us, but we were more than fine with the area growing so our property values would go up.  We looked for good schools and a diverse community so our kids would be educated and well rounded.  Even though we mostly homeschooled, one child went to developmental preschool and the other went to high school.  Those decisions would have been much harder without a great school system.  Before we moved here, we were already drawn here for weekend shopping and activities.  Now that my kids are grown, I can look back and see what else we loved the most was a location that was minutes from the kids' regular activities, a network of community gyms and pools, a walkable neighborhood with a culture of kids playing outside, a decently educated population that supports the libraries and the arts, access to quality medical care, and a community that is appealing to every stage of life.  I guess normal people just move when they outgrow a place, but we are not people who are particularly motivated move.  We bought a house that was plenty big enough for our family but not too big for when the kids are grown.  To be honest, a lot of that was luck and our checklist wasn't THAT fine-tuned in our twenties, but we really like it here.  The extensive network of paved bike paths has been really really nice too, but we knew we loved those all along. 😁

Ok..so I need to live where you do, lol. Cause no way I'm finding that anywhere near this area, lol. or this state, likely. 

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10 hours ago, KungFuPanda said:

We looked for a street that was already built up so there'd be no surprised buildings going up all around us, but we were more than fine with the area growing so our property values would go up.  We looked for good schools and a diverse community so our kids would be educated and well rounded.  Even though we mostly homeschooled, one child went to developmental preschool and the other went to high school.  Those decisions would have been much harder without a great school system.  Before we moved here, we were already drawn here for weekend shopping and activities.  Now that my kids are grown, I can look back and see what else we loved the most was a location that was minutes from the kids' regular activities, a network of community gyms and pools, a walkable neighborhood with a culture of kids playing outside, a decently educated population that supports the libraries and the arts, access to quality medical care, and a community that is appealing to every stage of life.  I guess normal people just move when they outgrow a place, but we are not people who are particularly motivated move.  We bought a house that was plenty big enough for our family but not too big for when the kids are grown.  To be honest, a lot of that was luck and our checklist wasn't THAT fine-tuned in our twenties, but we really like it here.  The extensive network of paved bike paths has been really really nice too, but we knew we loved those all along. 😁

This all reminds me of our area.

Dh and I have played around with the idea of moving after he retires. Our house is a bit cramped for us, and not the style I would ever have picked if given free choice, but choices were limited and prices high when we purchased it. So, I've spent lots of time dreaming over houses on Zillow. We could afford a larger, more attractive (to us) house in many other areas, but not here.

But I keep coming back to the community around us. We have a good school system. Good college, where retirees can take classes cheaply. Good library. During the pandemic, I've realized what a great network of parks surround us. Variety of good restaurants. Proximity to other towns with a variety of cultural resources. Low crime. Good health care. The area has demonstrated during the pandemic that they respond to a novel crisis with intelligence and responsibility.

So, I'm still looking at Zillow houses, but more and more, I'm thinking we'll stay here. And, if I were assessing a location, I'd be looking at those attributes. Does a community provide the cultural and intellectual life you'll enjoy? Are there organizations you'll want to be part of? Churches you'll be happy with?

If I could keep our community, but improve on any detail, it would be how walkable it is. I wish we could realistically walk *to* somewhere, instead of just around the streets of our neighborhood.

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21 minutes ago, Innisfree said:

And, if I were assessing a location, I'd be looking at those attributes. Does a community provide the cultural and intellectual life you'll enjoy? Are there organizations you'll want to be part of? Churches you'll be happy with?

If I could keep our community, but improve on any detail, it would be how walkable it is. I wish we could realistically walk *to* somewhere, instead of just around the streets of our neighborhood.

unfortunately, this is a bit of a dilemma. Many of the places we are looking at are further away from cultural/intellectual things we might enjoy. But...closer to family. And closer to the beach, which is a huge draw for me. (I grew up on the coast and miss it terribly)

My state is pretty purple, and we are very blue, and we'd be likely leaving a blue area for a more red one. But...family.

Actually, maybe this should be a separate post going into some of this...

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5 minutes ago, ktgrok said:

unfortunately, this is a bit of a dilemma. Many of the places we are looking at are further away from cultural/intellectual things we might enjoy. But...closer to family. And closer to the beach, which is a huge draw for me. (I grew up on the coast and miss it terribly)

My state is pretty purple, and we are very blue, and we'd be likely leaving a blue area for a more red one. But...family.

Actually, maybe this should be a separate post going into some of this...

That's a tough choice. How likely is the family to stay put where they are? Any college towns near beaches? 

I wouldn't choose based on politics per se, but on attitudes that make a place one where you'd feel safe. I dunno, it's hard to judge, and we just lucked out.

Thing like health care, professionals and therapies you might need, are important also.

 

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14 hours ago, ktgrok said:

Ok..so I need to live where you do, lol. Cause no way I'm finding that anywhere near this area, lol. or this state, likely. 

I live in Columbia, Maryland.  We were voted the safest city in America for three years running.  I think the 'safety criteria' they measured were financial security, crime statistics, and risk of natural disaster.  This contest was run by an entity I've never heard of and could very well be city propaganda. 😄 I like it though and don't hesitate to walk around the block at night if I don't get my exercise in during the day.  If we required a magazine-worthy dream home or lots of land, we'd definitely have to live elsewhere.

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On 4/2/2021 at 10:46 PM, ktgrok said:

Thanks for the ideas! I don't anticipate any of them being walkable, or having public transportation available, but Lyft/Uber are pretty ubiquitous. One area on our possible list doesn't get Shipt or other delivery which is lame, but all the others would. I'll definitely keep an ear out for noise, and look for potential sources now that I know the realtor.com thing isn't very accurate!

It might start opening up at some point though. Where we used to live it took a while for some of that "modern" stuff to be available to us.

On 4/2/2021 at 11:10 PM, ktgrok said:

 

I actually live right now where we get those trauma helicopters a few times a day some days, plus in the flight path for a small airport (think personal aircraft sized), plus hear the train at night, lol. Oh, and we can hear the loudspeaker for the local elementary school less than a mile away!

There are a lot of small airports in my county plus and Air Force base so look not just the for larger airport but whether or not you're in the path of a smaller one or the base. 

Bolded not helpful but just for fun:

When we lived in South Florida we were actually right across from Gulfstream racetrack. There was a big empty field between where we lived and the track and we could see the entrance (I'm sure that's all built up now). We could hear the loudspeaker as the race began and we heard an echo. Aaanndd they're off! they're off! they're off!. We couldn't here the actual race but we heard the start. 

I had a townhouse before I met dh. I taught at one high school but lived closer to the rival high school. If I went outside on a fall afternoon I could hear the marching band practicing. I loved that because I love high school marching bands.

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On 4/2/2021 at 5:01 PM, ktgrok said:

 

2. What else do you look for, when driving around checking out areas? Where do you ask to find out more, that kind of thing? I remember years ago I chose our neighborhood partly because it had a lot of basketball hoops up at the time, which meant kids in the area, and it was walking distance to the elementary school my son would attend. Now that we homeschool, I'm not looking for down the street from a school. But what else? I'm thinking proximity to a Target and a Starbucks with a drive thru are top priorities, lol. But what else? (I'm also looking at distance/drive to my various family members and the university my husband teaches at, etc). Oh, and maybe sidewalks....unless we get into a more rural area, sidewalks for bike rides and walking the dog are important. Otherwise??

 

Not sure if this is helpful or not, but years ago we were considering two houses. The realtor mentioned that there were homeschoolers who lived across the street and down two houses. I'm not sure how the realtor knew this, but suddenly that house in that neighborhood became MUCH more attractive! We bought the house even though it was much much much smaller than our previous house. That family was filled with many of my kids' best friends during the years we lived there. They were also my connection to a homeschool co-op and Catholic homeschooling families in the area.   So, don't be afraid to let your realtor know that you homeschool!

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