If you are a first-time homebuyer just starting a family you’ll probably want to start your home search with some basic criteria. But how do you go about researching the neighborhood? Before you call your realtor to look at a house, consider the following top five tips to get the neighborhood scoop.
#1 Check Out the City Website
City websites give vital information, such as who picks up your garbage, but they also provide neighborhood demographics. Find averages for age of residents, number of people per household, number of married couples, average income per household and similar facts. You can find a neighborhood to suit your lifestyle.
#2 Check Out Neighborhood Sites
Sites dedicated to presenting neighborhood details tend to offer more inside information. Search the city name plus neighborhood name to find neighborhood associations, clubs, events, or recreational activities. A couple sites include Front Door or Neighborhood Link.
Most of these sites welcome comments and questions. Keep in mind answers are other peoples’ opinions rather than facts. You can find out about traffic, friendly neighbors, local hangouts, and other tidbits only the locals know.
#3 Check Out Crime Sites
Access crime rates by adding the word crime with city name and neighborhood name. Sites like Crime Spotters or Neighborhood Scout give crime statistics, but numbers are often based on averages of past years. Some sites are current while others tend to be outdated.
The most efficient crime data appears on law enforcement websites. Some cities provide current arrest websites while some offer information through a police hotline.
#4 Check Out Real Estate Sites
Several nation-wide websites blend real estate data with demographics. These sites zero in on neighborhood labels like the most popular, most expensive, or safest. These statistics can be useful, but look closely at details. Labels might be based on the number of homes sold in a certain time frame or out-data statistics. Two real estate sites often referenced in the media include Trulia and Zillow.
#5 Check Out the Neighborhood in Person
You can read stacks of information, but the best way to know if a place feels like home is to go there. Driving through the area will give you an overview of the neighborhood, and walking for a few blocks will give you a sense of the personality of the place. If it feels cold and uninviting, forget it. If it feels warm and welcoming, schedule a time to look at the home you liked.
Whether you are buying your first home or investing in a vacation home, it’s always a good idea to educate yourself by researching the neighborhood.