Finding a Home in New Orleans: Thoughts from a Real Estate Agent
A local PR person recently suggested to me that I talk to real estate agent Dorian Bennett of Dorian Bennett Sotheby’s International Realty for a blog post. While I sometimes get annoyed by PR people (since I get a lot of press releases every day), I thought this was a great idea; I often get emails from readers asking where they should start to look for a house or apartment in New Orleans, so I thought it would be good to talk to an expert.
Bennett has lived in New Orleans for more than 20 years and he has helped many people find their New Orleans homes, including celebrities Jimmy Buffett and Lenny Kravitz.
The guy clearly knows a lot about what it takes to find a home here, so I learned a few lessons from our chat. Obviously newcomers have to think about how much money to spend, where the kids are going to go to school, etc., but when it comes to choosing a neighborhood, Bennett says there are a few other factors every newbie should think about:
1. Decide which neighborhood is best for you, not what's best for someone else.
I asked Bennett what he thinks is the “hottest neighborhood” in New Orleans, but he was quick to say there are lots of places that are popular in the city right now and it’s hard to pick just one. “We’re experiencing a lot of pressure throughout New Orleans,” Bennett says. “Properties are selling immediately when they come to the market.” People gravitate to different areas for different reasons. “I could tell you what I like, but what I like might not be necessarily what you want,” Bennett says.
Three of the most popular areas are Uptown, the French Quarter and the Garden District, but Mid-City, Treme and many other neighborhoods are seeing a lot of interest. Bennett also thinks St. Roch and Hollygrove are two neighborhoods under the radar right now, and Gentilly is a good spot to get more house for less money.
2. Don’t be scared by all the stories about crime.
I asked Bennett about crime because I tend to get a lot of emails from people asking something along the lines of “I’m moving to New Orleans, but I’m worried about crime.”
Bennett says people shouldn’t be afraid to move here because of what everyone hears about crime in New Orleans. Things happen everywhere and there is crime in other cities near New Orleans, such as Hammond, Slidell, Baton Rouge and more.
If you are worried about crime, Bennett recommends talking to people who live in the neighborhood in which you’re interested, or visit the area during the day and night to get your own feel for it. “We’re all adults now,” Bennett says. “It’s up to us to make sure we’re comfortable with wherever it is we’re going.”
3. Take a break from Google.
If you’re a 20-something New Orleans newcomer like me, you probably found your apartment or house online. While the Internet can be a great place for research, Bennett says newcomers should also spend some time away from the computer to experience a neighborhood before signing a lease or buying a home. “Don’t do it all on the Internet,” Bennett says. “You miss the sights and sounds and smells and textures of the city. Meet the neighbors and talk to them. Get their take on the neighborhood.”