e're all house stalkers on some level. You have a mental list of your favourite neighbourhood houses, you don’t know who lives there but you know their house. But that’s not what we’re talking about here; we're talking about house-stalking with a purpose.
If you grew up in the Lower Mainland, it's no secret that you and many others are facing the high cost of housing, and there’s a pretty good chance you won’t be buying into the neighbourhood you grew up in. Add to this the pressure of increased density and you might find that the neighbourhood you grew up in isn’t the same anymore. What once was your classmate's home is now a block of towering hi-rises. This leaves you with few options other than house-stalking when you're trying to get to know a new neighbourhood and find out what it’s really going to be like to live there.
Do a drive-by. It's guaranteed that you will feel like an actual stalker (but you’re just a house-stalker). Don’t kill the lights and coast, but do experiment with different times of the day and night. Are the streets packed with cars, are homes lit up, or is it a ghost town in flux before a land assembly? Who else is driving around? Are there kids out playing in the street or is this a blinds-shut kind of area? You can get a good sense of a neighbourhood by seeing how many kids are out and about, how many bikes are parked in driveways or how many impromptu street hockey games are happening.
What’s it really going to be like getting to work, school, sports? Trying your commute is going to take some commitment. Here’s how it works – get up extra early and try out your commute to work and school at the time you would be doing it. Yes, that means showing up super early on a Tuesday morning and getting into work at the actual time you would be commuting and then back again. Can you handle it? On a Saturday afternoon, it might take you 30 mins but during rush hour should you double or triple that? The results might surprise you. Most people check out a house in the evening, after work, or on a leisurely weekend, but not you, you’re a level 10 house-stalker.
Now it’s time to park the car and head out on foot. Spend time with the kids at the local parks, test out the coffee shops, and go for a bite to eat in what may soon be your go-to eatery. Let’s face it, most modern families' feet barely touch the ground as they leap from house to car to school to work to lessons to…you name it. But there is no better way to get a feeling for a neighbourhood than from boots on the ground.
See if you can hit up the neighbours for a quick chat. Although there is no guarantee those exact neighbours will live there forever, it’s going to give you a good idea of the feeling of the area and the kind of people living there. Who knows, they might even let you in on the neighbourhood gossip, you know the one that is going around about a car driving by slowly stalking houses? But seriously, see what you can uncover. If there is a community policing station in the area, give the non-emergency number a shout to see what they have to say - if anything dubious is happening they will be the ones to know about it.
Remember there are some things that not even the internet can answer for you. Aerial maps and street views are wonderful, but what they can’t capture is the real-life feeling of an area or the people that live there. For that, you’re going to have to get out from behind the laptop and go exploring!