Sometimes to learn everything you need to know about a community you’re considering, you have to become a new home super sleuth!

It’s hard to know just what it will be like to live in a new community from driving through it one time and listening to the new home salesperson. To find out what it is really like to live in a community “drive before you buy!” Taking a few unplanned trips through the community at specific times can tell you more about living in this neighborhood than almost anything else you can do. Here are four times you’ll want to cruise through your favorite communities to get a little insight before you make an offer!

WEEKDAY MORNINGS
Driving into a community when everyone is driving out will give you a great idea of what your mornings will be like if you decide to buy a home. A weekday morning drive through will let you know about school zones, stop sign or red light backups and how long it will take you to get to work. A community may look like a serene plot of heaven while you’re talking with the onsite salesperson, but resemble downtown Tokyo on a school morning. In some cases, neighborhoods are perfect “cut-throughs” from one main road to another, or worse, are perfect ways to avoid bad traffic in other areas. Whatever the case, a quick trip to a neighborhood on a weekday morning will let you know what you may be in store.

WEEKDAY EVENINGS
A community that looks perfect during the middle of a weekday can look like a parking lot on a weekday night. Taking a drive through the community in the evening will let you know if people park in their driveways, in their garages or on the street. Some neighborhoods can get so congested with people parking on both sides of the street that just driving down the street or getting out of your driveway can be precarious. It’s good to know if your perfect neighborhood in the day becomes a car lot every evening. Some religions celebrate on weekday evenings and you’ll want to see how service attendance impacts your neighborhood.

WEEKDAY AFTER WORK
At least once before you make an offer on a new home, you should drive from your office, leaving at the time you most regularly leave and see how long it takes you to get from your place of employment to the neighborhood. Something that looks pretty close “as the crow flies” can take you much longer during rush hour. Setting your “travel expectations” will give you some of the data you need to make a fully informed decision.

WEEKEND MORNINGS
If you want to find out how the neighborhood wakes up and starts the day, a great way to do it is on a weekend morning. Are families out walking, exercising, and enjoying the facilities and trails, or is the place silent? Either may be perfect, but you may want to know. If there are sports fields in the area, are they well-populated? Take careful note as to how the parking may impact your home. Also, some churches celebrate service on Saturday evenings or Sunday mornings and you’ll want to see how those services may impact the neighborhood.

Take careful notes about how you feel and your impression of the neighborhood at these different times. In most cases, there will probably be nothing that bothers you enough to eliminate this community from your list. If, however, there is something that you don’t like, take this feeling seriously. At this stage of your new home shopping you shouldn’t have to compromise on anything. Taking a little extra time to learn what your prospective neighborhood is like during different times of the day will give you some additional insight to help you decide if this really is the perfect neighborhood for you and your family.