Everyone wants to live in a good neighborhood, but which communities fit the bill?

You may envision the iconic image of a decently sized single-family home complete with a sprawling lawn and white picket fence: the vision of the American dream. Place clones of this property throughout the community, add a few good schools and nice neighbors, and you've created the perfect neighborhood. However, your subjective idea of a perfect location may not have the perks that drive up home values.

Similar to the way that not all home improvements make a property more appealing, not all benefits mean that a certain neighborhood is part of the upper echelon. Here are some features of a community that is friendly to your property value and family:

Tidy neighbors

The people living to the right or left of your home are much than more strangers residing on the other side of your fence. When shopping for the perfect house, the state of potential neighbors' lawns and homes' exteriors can tell you a lot about the direction the neighborhood is moving. Their curb appeal is as important as that of the property you're viewing.

Not only are you looking for signs of regular maintenance, but also check for features such as flower beds and exterior landscaping. Neighbors who value the appearance of their home are more likely to value the neighborhood.

A safe atmosphere

Your potential neighbors can also tell you whether a community is safe, and you don't even have to ask. If you've become interested in a particular home, drive through the neighborhood at different times of the day. Children and families playing outside or walking pets is usually good sign. Top-notch security systems, well-lit streets and the absence of graffiti are also positives.

Beyond some on-site sleuthing, check crime statistics for the city. You can also find out if there are any registered sex offenders by looking online.

Nearby amenities

How far is a home from the places you want and need to go? If your kids will need to travel a few miles to get to school or the grocery store is two towns away, you may want to consider other options. The same is true in regard to entertainment venues, such as movie theaters and museums, and emergency services. You don't want to be too far from a police station or hospital.

Efficient public services and growing businesses

Your neighbors are responsible for their own properties, but it is up to the city to keep the parks, streets and other public places in order. Communities that struggle financially are often riddled with trash and don't provide quality services, which can be a negative for safety and your property value.

Local stores and other businesses are not only a great way to get the products and services that you need, but they are also a sign of a strong community. Mom-and-pop establishments that have been around for some time typically indicate a supportive neighborhood.

Rising property values

Of course, the easiest way to determine which way a neighborhood is heading is to ask the real estate agent who is helping you shop for a home. Doing so can give you insight into the sale price of homes that were recently bought in the community as well as any new developments that are soon to appear in the area.

While finding out about the world outside of your potential new home, don't forget to give the interior equal scrutiny. Ordering a property inspection can give you the peace of mind that your house will be the right choice inside and out.