Before finding your perfect house, you first need to find the right neighborhood that best fits your needs.
What those needs are depends entirely on you. Maybe you are looking to find a house to start a family, which means you want a safe, quiet area with good schools. Or maybe you are looking for a place to retire and are more concerned about convenience and nearby attractions, such as golf courses or museums.
Or maybe you are tired of commuting and want a walkable neighborhood near the city center.
The number of factors that go into picking a neighborhood can get long. But whatever your personal situation, there are many options for researching your future neighborhood. Here are some to consider.
Resources for Researching Your Future Neighborhood
One of the first things you will want to know is how a neighborhood looks. With Google Maps and Street View, you can zero in on any street in any neighborhood and see if it looks like someplace you’d actually want to live. You can also get a quick idea on the number and quality of area parks, restaurants and other amenities.
While this may seem overly simplistic, most buyers have an initial “gut feeling” about a neighborhood. It’s much easier to scout neighborhoods from your computer then drive the entire city – save the in-person tours for the neighborhoods that look good.
Once you reach that point, it’s a good idea to consider hiring a Realtor to show you the neighborhoods on your short list. They will bring a wealth of knowledge about a neighborhood’s characteristics and cut down on the amount of time wasted looking at areas that don’t fit your needs.
Data on a New City
Whether you are moving to a new city or just a new area of your current city, there is a wealth of data available on the Web. Rather than leaving things to chance, take the time to investigate what a neighborhood has to offer.
These sites cover topics ranging from the cost of living in a neighborhood to the friendliness of the locals and local culinary offerings.
Street Advisor. This site allows you to read reviews of cities, neighborhood by neighborhood. Information is compiled from statistical databases and site users, and includes everything from the prevalence of crime to the availability of art galleries and live music venues.
City Data. Using data from a number of sources, City Data compiles a statistical profile of major cities that includes everything from crime statistics to weather patterns. Additionally, message boards offer user comments about cities, down to the neighborhoods and in some cases the very street.
Yelp. Like to eat out? Yelp is a great place to start your search for the best restaurants in the area.
Foursquare. More information on local restaurants and attractions.
There is a wealth of information just a few clicks away on housing costs in a neighborhood, which generally is one of the first criteria for any buyer.
Check out Zillow, Trulia or Redfin for a quick look at what the asking price is for houses in a neighborhood, as well as the price of previous sales. This will give you an idea within minutes about whether you can afford a neighborhood.
There are numerous sites that offer a quick – and sometimes, depressing – look at the amount of crime in areas around a city.
Crime Reports. Simply enter an address and a map pops up of the surrounding area. Hopefully not many crimes will be listed, but if so, click on them to see everything from vehicle theft and robbery to more serious crimes such as assault.
Rating the Schools
Another very big issue facing home buyers who have a family are the presence of quality schools. This factor ranks among the top few issues for families.
Luckily, there are sites which provide information on area schools.
Perhaps best-known is Great Schools, which offers data on a school’s performance based primarily on standardized tests and other statistical information that is public record. The site also has a section allowing parents and students to comment on a school’s academics, student population and general overall experience.
Neighborhood Scout, which also provides user information on other aspects of neighborhoods, has a section on local schools.
All these sites – and the guidance of a knowledgeable realtor – can help you gather the information you need to make an informed decision. That’s good, because you don’t want to leave something as important as a home purchase to chance.