Alright, you're all set! It's a fact that you're gonna move to Frankfurt. But Frankfurt is huge and it has 43 districts! Then how do you choose the ideal neighborhood to meet your desires in the most ideal way? Your relocation agent who might have introduced you to the house does not always have a clear view of each area, so here are 5 things to consider before you decide to rent or buy that nice house you have found.
1. Neighborhood Safety
The safety of a neighborhood is a very important factor when looking to buy or rent a house, especially if you have children. Here are some things to look into to help you get a better sense of whether a neigborhood feels safe:
- Crime statistics - Every area will have some criminal activity from time to time, so don't be overly discouraged if you can't find a crime-free area. However, if you check criminal reports through the city website or contact local law enforcement and notice a high level of criminality, it might raise a red flag.
- Neighborhood watch - Is there a neighborhood watch group established in the area? In Dutch it's known as 'Whatsapp Buurtpreventie'. This may not be a deal breaker, but it's something some families value. Ask a resident or local law enforcement. You might see a street sign indicating it is a neighborhood watch area and looks like this:
- Street lighting - An adequate amount of street lighting can help one feel safer.
- Talk with neighbors - If you see someone walking their dog, mowing the lawn, or emptying their mail box, introduce yourself by telling them you may be interested in moving to the neighborhood. Residents can tell you whether or not they feel safe in the area.
Of course the above mentioned are not the only elements that determine whether a neighborhood is safe or not. Therefore it is always a good idea to spend some time in an area before you make a decision.
2. Closest Grocery, Pharmacy and Department Stores
Food, medications, and toiletries are necessities for daily life. If convenience is important to you, you may want to consider choosing a location that’s close to where you will be running a majority of your errands. Unless you're looking at a rural location, of course. Map out where the neighborhood is in relation to the nearest pharmacy, grocery, and department stores. Are they conveniently close? Or will you dread planning a trip to the store? And be sure you're looking into the stores you prefer. For me it was important that I had a DM, Lidl/REWE and a pharmacy nearby. If these stores are not close to your home, but are on your way to and from work, school, or daycare, that is also something that may factor into your decision.
3. School district
Whether you're planning to have kids in the near future, you just had your first child, or you have a few youngsters in school already, finding a well-performing school district is something many families prioritize when looking for the right location to live. How do you determine if a school district is "good" or not? How far is the (international) school you are looking for? Is the distance manageable or more likely to stress all family members out?
- Test scores and data - State test scores can be an indicator of whether a certain school district is performing at, below, or above the average. The municipality/local authorities provide graduation rates, test scores, and information about access for English/other language learners, demographics, and more.
- Programming - School programming can be a big deal for some families. If your student does well in many classes, you may want to see if the district you're considering offers such Advanced Placement classes or college-level courses that can go toward an education after high school.
- Extracurricular activities - Maybe your child loves writing or performing in musicals? Does the school have a newspaper? Finding a district that caters to your children's interests and strengths will help toward their success.
- Sports programs - Maybe you assume all school districts offer school football, have a swimming team, and are competitive in basketball? But maybe the district you're looking into is too small or lacks the funding to support specific sports. Double check to see what athletic programs are offered.
- PTO - If open parent and teacher communication and cooperation is important to you, ask about its Parent Teacher Organization or Association (PTO/PTA). Is there one? How many people actively participate? How often do they meet? What types of topics are discussed when they do meet? Is it an open and welcoming group?
4. Nearby Parks, Nature
Even if you’re looking to buy a home during the winter season, it is still important to check out the outdoor amenities a neighborhood has to offer. In Frankfurt you should not be worried about parks or green area's around, because half of the city's area consists of natural landscapes in one form or another. From urban parks and forests to palm trees in botanical garden 'Palmengarten'. Around 80% of the city's population live within 300 metres of a public green space. You nevertheless may want to consider taking a drive or walk around the area, and checking for things like:
- Sidewalks - This may not be a deal breaker for you, but sidewalks make a neighborhood more pedestrian friendly. Instead of biking or walking on the street, where cars are driving, you have the safety of a sidewalk.
- Parks - Speaking of parks, is there one within walking distance? Or is it a short drive away? What amenities does the park have? If it's not something you would visit, it might not matter, or it might discourage you from buying/renting a house in that neighborhood.
- Walking/running trails- Maybe you take your dog for a walk every morning before you go to work, or you enjoy a family stroll after dinner. Or are you -like me- a runner? Look around for nearby walking trails or locate a city trail map.
5. Commute to work
Where you work in relation to where you live is an important factor to consider, especially if your goal is to have a short commute. If driving yourself isn’t an option, or one you prefer to avoid, look into transportation options such as public transport nearby.
It's helpful to determine whether you love the house or the neighborhood. If it’s the neighborhood you love, and the house price is too high, you have a few options. First, you can try to find a smaller home in the area that you can afford. If that's not an option, you can also go back to your "must-haves" list and see if there are any amenities/finishes/etc. that you're willing to give up to find a home in that neighborhood. If it’s the home you love, understand that you can pay the same amount for very different houses depending on the community you’re looking in. Try to identify what it is you love about the house. Chances are there's a home in a neighborhood nearby that’s less expensive, but has a similar neighborhood feel and community amenities.
Remember to take your time searching and don't be afraid to drive around the area, talk to neighbors, and ask questions. You want to be comfortable when making a big decision like where to buy/rent a house, and you want to be confident in your choice. Make sure to have honest, open conversations with people you trust during the homebuying process such as family members, your realtor, or a financial coach. They can help set realistic expectations and offer advice and opinions when you're making a decision. Good luck!