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How To Explore Your New Neighborhood

Hanna KielarOctober 30, 2019

New to town? Today it’s rare for the “welcome wagon” to show up; instead, chances are good you’ll need to do some exploring on your own. But that’s part of the fun of buying a home and moving to a new place – discovering all it has to offer. Here are some tips on how to explore your neighborhood so you’ll no longer feel like the “new kid.”

Get Discovering!

The first thing you’ll want to know is navigation – how do you get where you want to go? And for that, there’s no substitute for just getting out and about. Challenge yourself to drive or walk different routes each time you leave your house; you might stumble on a brilliant shortcut, a nearby pocket park or a boutique you didn’t even know was there.

Find Your New Favorite Spots

“Take the time to explore all the shops in your local shopping district,” advises REALTOR® Kathleen Spiking, with ReeceNichols Realtors, a Berkshire Hathaway affiliate in Kansas City, Missouri. Even if you’re used to a big supermarket, it’s worth it to try something smaller and more local where neighbors might be more chatty.

Want to find some new hangout spots? The best way to find your new favorite place – the place you return to again and again – is to just start giving nearby places a try. That means veering away from the chain Mexican restaurant you know all too well and checking out some area spots to get a taste for the local flavor. And, even if you think you’ve found your No. 1 spot right off the bat, reserve judgement. Who knows what the next spot might be like?

If you moved with a partner or your family, make a game of identifying these new places. Create your own personal “rating scale,” focusing on things that are important to you, whether that’s a short wait, a long kids’ menu or free soda refills. Take notes everywhere you go (little ones can dictate their thoughts) and then create your own personal list of “must-visits.”

Get The Local Scoop

For those out of the kid-menu phase, pick a night of the week and frequent a local pub or restaurant and sit at the bar, suggests David Meek,real estate broker/associate with Keller Williams Arizona Realty. “Bartenders are hubs of social information and can introduce you to others with similar occupations and interests.”

Subscribe to the local paper to find out about events going on in town – whether it’s art festivals or concerts, kids’ events at the park or book groups or business associations that meet at neighborhood venues. Even if you don’t know anyone the first few times you show up, you’ll start to see familiar faces or run into folks you’ve met on your various outings.

Meet The Neighbors

Some areas are more naturally friendly than others, but you want to make sure you’re sending the right vibe. Driving into your garage and immediately shutting the door could send the signal that you don’t want to meet people. At the same time, you want to be wary of going overboard and catching people at a bad time. That’s why sometimes the best ways to meet neighbors are by “planned happenstance,” rather than deliberately ringing your neighbor’s bell.

Take The First Step

Back to that welcome wagon … if no one’s visiting your porch with cookies, what’s to stop you from delivering some yourself? Create a fun sticker or note to put on baked goods or granola mix that introduces your family – where you’re from, when you moved in, your names, contact information and a picture – don’t forget any pets! You can bet the neighbors have been curious about you and will appreciate the thoughtful gesture (and probably respond in kind!)

You can even host a simple get together as a “housewarming” party; you’ll be surprised how many neighbors are often interested in being inside a home that they’ve never seen, especially if the former owners weren’t the sociable type. Again, that can pave the way for an invitation of your own.

You also can introduce yourself in the neighborhood social media group. “I recommend that my clients join NextDoor or local Facebook groups,” Meek says. “Homeowners actively trade advice daily on pets, handymen, physicians and restaurants, and it’s a great way to locate and connect with people in your immediate neighborhood about local events and general buzz.” He recommends engaging neighbors with questions like "Who is the best dentist in the area?" or "Can anyone recommend a good pool service tech?"

But, while it’s fun to interact, resist sharing too many details. After all, those public postings can be read by anyone so you don’t want to inadvertently compromise your safety or that of your family. Also as you peruse the boards and find out the hot topics, be careful not to weigh in on controversies too soon when you don’t yet know the lay of the land.

Take A Walk And Mingle

Another great in-person option is to on long after-dinner walks, Spiking says. “You’ll get to meet fellow neighbors and get a read on who hangs out on their porch or the park.” If you have a pet or kid in tow, you’re in luck – provided that the neighbors like pets and kids!

“Definitely get your pet out and about,” Meek says. “Most dogs are very approachable and can help break the ice with new neighbors on your block. They may not remember your name from your first encounter, but they will know you immediately as ‘Rocky's owner.’”

Finally, see if you can find special interest groups where you can meet like-minded neighbors who enjoy your same hobbies – whether it’s gardening, wine tasting, cooking, reading or exercise. Check into your online social media board, see if the homeowners association (HOA) has a website or email list or just ask a neighbor if there are any groups you should check out.

Get Involved In The Community

There’s no better way to quickly become ingrained in the fabric of the community than to jump in with both feet. After all, this is your neighborhood now, too, and you want to know what’s going on. And, believe us, no one will ever turn down an eager volunteer!

Watch for and attend upcoming HOA meetings, Meek advises. “The attendees at these gatherings are the most-invested homeowners in your community. Listen to the issues and volunteer your feedback as a way to become known in the community.” While you’re at the meetings, volunteer to help with projects, like planting flowers in the spring or sprucing up playground equipment.

You also can see if the local parks or library needs volunteers, or check out the community center, where they can probably always use a helping hand. Many towns have community gardens, where you can chat with neighbors

If you have kids, volunteering at the school is an ideal way to get involved immediately. Meek recommends that parents with flexible schedules volunteer as a crossing guard. “Neighbors who walk their kids to school daily will begin to recognize you and engage you as they pass by,” he says. “It is an efficient way to get to know local parents, and they are grateful for your time and efforts.”

By putting yourself out there, your new town will feel like home in no time.

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    Hanna Kielar

    Hanna Kielar is an Associate Section Editor for Rocket Companies focused on personal finance, recruiting and personal loans. She has a B.A. in Professional Writing from Michigan State University.