A home can only reach its full potential when its neighborhood meets your current and future needs. Here you can discover what qualities to look for to find the best location for a small home.

Flexibility Is Key

I don’t know anyone that enjoys the process of moving houses.

If you do – please contact me to help with my next move.

For some, moving might occur all too much. Work arrangements, family circumstances and our hobbies tend to change with each passing year.

The birth of a new baby, for example, will turn your household upside down, and your life into a literal game of minesweeper. However, instead of losing and starting again, like in the game, you might just end up swearing profusely, shaking your fist like a lunatic at an innocuous smiling Lego man on the ground.

Despite this, there are numerous things you can do to ensure that the location of your next home, whether an existing or new build, will see you through the years.

What you really ought to look for is a neighbourhood that is adaptable to all of those inevitable life changes. To do this, you need to find a location that meets both your present and future requirements.

The Small Home Advantage

Let’s be clear upfront – building, buying or renovating a small home will provide you with numerous advantages when you are trying to seek the best location within your budget.

It will put you in the unique position of being able to find sites that might be commonly overlooked because of their reduced size, irregular shape or difficult terrain.

For example, a site may provide an area of only 20% which is financially feasible to construct a house on, and yet that 20% may be all you need for your small home build.

You may also be able to find sites that might otherwise be out of your budget, simply because of the amount of money you’ll save building or renovating an existing small home.

The Lifestyle-Location Relationship

There are a vast array of questions you need to ask yourself prior to assessing specific sites to build or buy your small home.

These questions relate to your lifestyle and what aspects your neighbourhood should provide to suit the things that are currently most important to you.

I recommend compiling a list and ordering it in terms of lifestyle priorities. It helps to write it down and get it on paper, as this will help to clarify what you’re looking for.

This is an example of such a list:

  • Do you enjoy staying fit or working out? You may be looking for areas with:
    › Nearby recreational amenities such as parks, gyms or pools.
    › Low traffic or cycling routes so that you can ride your bicycle more safely.
    › Shops or nearby cafes that can be accessed by foot.
  • Have kids or are you planning to have children in the near future? You might want to look for:
    › Areas with nearby schools or educational facilities which members of your household can attend.
    › Neighbourhoods with a family demographic.
    › Suburbs that are safe or have low crime rates.
  • Love food and culture? You might want to look for:
    › Farmers’ markets or supermarkets within walking distance.
    › Neighbourhoods that host public events at least once a year.
    › Places with a ‘cafe culture.’

Of course, your list may look completely different, but if the location you have your eyes on doesn’t meet your #1 requirement, then perhaps you should be looking elsewhere.

Unless you have an unlimited budget, compromise will always be necessary, but this is precisely why prioritising matters. It will help you to work out what you can compromise on.

Looking Forward

Now that you have a good idea about lifestyle requirements, it’s important to look at least 10 years ahead and try to imagine where your life will be at.

In the coming years:

  • If you’re currently working, how might you see your employment situation changing?
  • How might your financial situation change?
  • Will you see a change to your health or mobility?
  • Will you be travelling more or less?
  • Will there be new developments in your family situation?
  • Are you planning to retire?
  • Are you planning to have children or will your children be moving out of home?
  • Do you think you might change what you value in life?

When you have a better understanding of how your life may change at the next life ‘stage,’ you’ll also gain a better understanding of how prospective neighbourhoods can serve these changes.

Most people tend to gravitate towards areas that contain a similar demographic to that of your own.

Instead, I would usually recommend that you look for places with more varied demographics. These tend to be the types of neighbourhoods that are the most versatile because they cater to wider groups of people. They also tend to be more interesting and exciting to live in.

8 Characteristics Of A Great Neighbourhood

Once you have a better understanding of your current and future lifestyle requirements, it’s also helpful to take note of more general qualities that make living in the city or the suburbs enjoyable.

These are characteristics of a neighbourhood that will make living in a small home more adaptable to those inevitable life changes, and more pleasurable in the long run.

1. Shops within walking distance

An easy 5 to 10 minute walk to the grocery store, daycare, bank, post office, cafe and a restaurant will not only make you happier but you’ll feel more connected with your neighbourhood.

2. Various modes of transport

You’ll be a lot happier if you have various methods of transport at your disposal. Being close to public transport is key, but it’s even better if you have several choices that are close to your home, such as trams, trains, busses and bike lanes.

3. Pride in ownership

Neighbourhoods of people that take pride in maintaining their homes and enjoy living among their community are a pleasure to live in. All the best locations have this in common.

4. Meeting places

Great neighborhoods provide numerous places for people to catch-up and talk. These are the sorts of places that contain parks, walkways, cafes, restaurants, and provide ample amounts of public seating or benches.

5. Entertainment & nightlife

While more of a priority for singles and young couples, almost everyone will appreciate a neighbourhood that has a dynamic nightlife within walking distance. These places tend to make neighbourhoods safer and more fun by providing bars, movie theatres, restaurants, dessert bars and maybe even karaoke if you’re so inclined!

6. Character

Character tends to develop with age, and makes neighbourhoods identifiable. It is important because it helps residents belonging to a particular area feel a greater sense of ownership and tends to naturally aide in a community feeling as a whole. Character is defined by the quality of the streets, trees, open spaces, buildings, history and subcultures.

7. Environment

The environmental quality of a neighbourhood is critical to your health and well-being. Look for places that have low levels of pollution and noise, as well as an abundance of street trees or vegetation. Also take note of potential environmental hazards that exist in certain areas.

8. Diversity

Research suggests1 this is beneficial and through personal experience, I strongly agree. Racially diverse neighbourhoods provide opportunities for exposure and interaction. They help to broaden people’s perspective of their world and increase empathy. People that live in diverse neighbourhoods generally express less racial and ethnic prejudice and help to broaden people’s social networks organically.

Everything Combined

When you are planning to build new, buy or renovate an existing small home, you are also inevitably buying into the neighbourhood.

For the success of the project, it is crucial that you see the project as playing a small part within a broader network.

There will be little point in creating the most elegant small home in a slum, since property prices are not viewed in isolation and the home will feel out of place.

Alternatively, you may be able to find a property at a low price in an area that is just starting to improve, because the area is starting to exhibit some of the qualities listed above.

You will have found a great location for your small home project when you find a neighbourhood that is just starting to, or already displays the qualities mentioned above, as well as addressing your current and future needs.