Need help finding the right neighborhood for your next home? As the old saying goes, “the first 3 rules of a successful real estate purchase are location, location, location.”

Below are five factors that should be at the top of any decision making process where choosing the right community is a priority:

1. Top Quality Schools

Even if you don’t have children at home, the curriculum quality of the schools in your specific neighborhood should be high on the priority list. That’s because average property values are usually higher in neighborhoods with high scoring school districts.

In socioeconomic terms, good schools = more desirable community.

Homes in a good school district should appreciate higher and faster than similar sized properties in other areas where the schools do not fare as well.

This appreciation in value can be converted into future equity, meaning you may realize a significant increase in profit when you eventually sell the property.

2. Rising Property Values

Independent of school quality, you should always look at local trends in home prices to get insight into that neighborhood’s future. Start by searching local county property records online, or referencing a site like Zillow that may help give you an idea of property value trends for a particular community.

If property values have been falling for several years, resident home sellers will likely face difficulty when reselling the same property in the future.

It’s best to look for new and up-coming communities where neighborhood home prices are trending upward.

3. Less Road Traffic

Heavy road construction and constant traffic may not seem bad now, but in five to ten years your pocketbook may disagree.

In addition to excess noise, anxiety, and poor commute times – road congestion can possibly carry health and safety implications with respect to increased air pollution and auto accidents.

If you’re buying a home, chances are you will be living there for a while.

Better to take your time and get the neighborhood right the first time, or you may be planning another move sooner than you think.

4. Quick Access to Great Emergency and Medical Services

In the event of a medical emergency, you have to know that emergency respondents can reach you quickly.

It’s one thing to live close to a hospital, and something totally different to be close to a great hospital. The difference could literally mean life or death for you and your family.

Where at all possible, concentrate on communities located in close proximity to research or university type hospitals. These medical facilities tend to have more modern medical equipment, have a larger resident staff and access to additional life saving resources.

5. Reported Crime and Local Statistics

Looks can be deceiving, and often it is too late to change your mind about living in a particular area – especially after you’ve already made your first mortgage payment.

Information on local crime rates and the most common types of crime are readily available from any local police department. Some web portals like Crime Reports aggregate data from several local sources to provide their own neighborhood level crime reports and statistics.

Never rely on outward appearances alone when evaluating the potential safety and security details of any particular community or neighborhood.

Keeping these five factors at the top of your mind when choosing your next new home’s neighborhood, and you’ll likely receive a good return on your investment in time, money and satisfaction.