What Families Need to Look for When Choosing a Neighborhood

Sean Mamola  |  June 26, 2023

What Families Need to Look for When Choosing a Neighborhood

If you have been looking at homes for sale in San Francisco and considering moving your family to the San Francisco Bay Area, you’ll want to take some time to find a neighborhood that is the right fit. The Bay Area has much to offer, including many unique neighborhoods. The first step is to find a realtor who knows the area well and can provide expert assistance with targeting communities best suited to your needs. To help you along, we’ve put together some tips on what to look for when choosing a neighborhood to call home.

Make a detailed assessment

Before making any major purchase, whether for a car or a condo, it’s essential to take some time and carefully compile a list of “must haves” and “negotiables.” There will be certain things your new neighborhood absolutely must have; for example, you may need the home to be close to a particular school. Similarly, other items on your list would be nice, but not having them wouldn’t be a deal killer. An example of a “negotiable” might be a desire to be in a neighborhood with a clubhouse and fitness center. Doing this assessment and creating your list is an important step and will help direct your efforts as you begin to search for the right neighborhood.

What are your family’s needs?

The most critical part of the assessment is cataloging your family's needs. Really think hard about these items. If the neighborhood you choose fails to meet one or more of the items on your list of “must haves,” it will undoubtedly create problems for you right from the start. Most of the time, our needs for a neighborhood have to do with its location. Will those beautiful condos for sale in South Beach be close to your work and your kids’ school? Clearly, you’ll want to live in a neighborhood that provides convenient access to one or both of those.

If you’ll be using public transportation, finding a community close to the BART train or bus line is probably wise. If someone in your family has medical issues, will you need to be close to a hospital or medical facility? These are the types of things that you will need to carefully consider as you begin your search.

What are your family’s preferences?

A family’s preferences are much more flexible but should still be considered when choosing a neighborhood. The kids may be clamoring for an area with a playground or a community pool, while the adults in the house may be looking at homes for sale in Mission Bay that are close to a marina or a park. While recreational and comfort preferences may seem trivial, they are an important part of the livability of a community, and they are the sorts of things that help us fall in love with where we live. While checking every box on the preference list may be impossible, the right neighborhood should check off at least some of them.

Get to know the area

The only way to ensure an informed decision and select the best neighborhood for your family is to get to know as many areas as possible. The San Francisco Bay Area has 36 unique communities, so it’s improbable that you’ll have the time to explore all of them. To narrow the list, discuss your list of “must haves” and “negotiables” with your real estate agent, and they’ll  be able to point you in the direction of the neighborhoods that will be the best fit.

Take a drive

After narrowing the list to a few neighborhoods, it’s time to take a drive. Plan to spend at least a whole day exploring each area. If you can, book a hotel room and spend a weekend or longer in the area. Drive through the community and note all the pros and cons. Evaluate how far the neighborhood is from schools, parks, and recreation. Determine if the neighborhood vibe is appealing — do you prefer a high-energy urban vibe or a quiet suburban community? After you’ve explored each neighborhood, it will be easy to sit down and use the list to make a side-by-side comparison.

Get opinions

While you are in each neighborhood, try to talk to some of the locals. Solicit their opinions on what it’s like to live in the area. Ask them for their pros and cons. Locals are also a great resource for informing you about local hot spots, great shopping, the best restaurants, and any recreational amenities.

Visit schools

If you have young, school-aged children, you’ll want to find out what schools are in each neighborhood. Online resources are an excellent starting place for getting a sense of the quality of each school. Don’t stop there, however; schedule a visit and ask if it’s possible to get a tour of the school and speak to the principal. This is one of the most crucial aspects of selecting a neighborhood, so don’t skimp on the research when it comes to schools.

Branch out

Don’t make the mistake of being too overly hyper-focused on the neighborhood; branch out and discover what’s nearby. Often, the best thing about San Francisco luxury homes is the proximity to really fantastic nearby features and amenities. Look for parks, museums, theaters, concert halls, or hiking trails. Is there a golf course nearby? How far is it to the nearest beach or lake? As you explore the surrounding areas, try to get a feel for the type of lifestyle you’d have if you were to live in each community.


The Bay Area is known for many things, but one of the biggest things is its phenomenal shopping scene. Around almost every corner, you’ll find fantastic little boutiques and designer shops. Take time to explore and discover what shopping is located near each neighborhood. If your teens enjoy mall shopping, is there one nearby? What kinds of grocery stores are in the area? If you prefer organic produce, is there a natural grocer, or does the community have a farmer’s market?


If your family enjoys eating out occasionally, you’ll want to find out what restaurants are near each neighborhood. Does the area have your family’s quick and easy standbys? Is there a place nearby for pizza or other family favorites? For the more sophisticated palates in the family, San Francisco is home to some of the finest cuisine in all of California, so there’s no doubt you’ll enjoy sampling the local dining options!

Explore with the help of Rises.co

The best way to discover a neighborhood that fits your family is to do some research and explore. A real estate professional who knows the Bay Area well will be an invaluable resource and can help you with the selection process. The team of seasoned and highly-credentialed realtors with Rises.co are here to help you choose the best San Francisco neighborhood for your family. Give them a call today!

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