Los Angeles is one of the United States’ great international cities; if you’re a foreign national looking to relocate to the continental US, you’ll find few locations that offer the same level of comfort and cultural diversity. Central American, Asian, and European immigrants have been building communities in the Southland for generations. LA doesn’t just have a generic “Chinatown”; it has “Little Tokyo,” “Thai Town” and “Korea Town” as well. Spanish is spoken almost as widely as English, and most city amenities are bilingual. One thing’s for certain, no matter what your cultural background, Los Angeles is a comfortable and exciting place to own a home.

Just keep these five tips in mind when you’re browsing the listings.

Airplane landing at Los Angeles International airport

Know your family’s needs

LA neighborhoods and homes are just as diverse as their residents. Knowing exactly what you’re looking for in an area will help you narrow down your search. Some areas like Brentwood and Bel-Aire have an exclusive, residential feel, while other spots like Los Feliz and Downtown feel more traditionally urban. LA zip codes in Beverly Hills and Santa Monica carry more gravitas, but you’ll get more space for your dollar in the San Fernando Valley.

Visit before you commit

Who can say no to a SoCal vacation? Take some time to see the sights before you get your heart set on one area or another. LA isn’t just beachfront condos. Make sure you see everything the city has to offer before you lock yourself into a 30-year mortgage.

Research the school districts

If you have kids or are planning to have kids in the near future, school districts have to be a consideration. Just like any major metropolitan area, the reputations of the various elementary and secondary school systems can vary. Do you plan to send your kids to public or private schools? Are there any good charter schools in your area? Is your potential neighborhood part of the marginal Los Angeles Unified School District? These are only some of the questions that you need to ask.

Research parking in the area

If you ask any Los Angeles resident to name his or her biggest gripes with the city, parking will inevitably claim a place of prominence on the list. Though public transportation has improved greatly, LA is still very much a car city. If your house or apartment doesn’t come with enough parking spots to accommodate all of your vehicles, make sure you research the street parking rules in your neck of the woods. There’s nothing worse than spending an hour after work driving laps around your street trying to find an open spot – except maybe waking up to a parking ticket.

Take stock of your commuting routes

This tip is kind of a corollary to the last one. If you’re moving to LA from outside the country, then there’s a good chance you’re doing it for work. Don’t set yourself up for failure with a nightmare commute. Traffic can be a beast, so know where the best neighborhoods are in relation to your office. Almost every neighborhood in the city is near a freeway, just make sure it’s the right freeway. This one, simple consideration will save you hours of your life and probably a fair amount of unnecessary stress.

Photo: jondoeforty1