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How To Research Neighborhoods

Finding the right home for you and your family is an essential aspect of the home-buying process. Location is one of many factors, and it matters. Location is often the key to retaining property value and access to good schools. But there are other factors prospective homebuyers should consider as they search for the perfect new home, including safety and environmental wellness. Prospective home buyers should research neighborhoods early in the home-buying process.

This Findlaw article discusses ways to effectively and independently research neighborhoods as part of your house-hunting.

Key Factors to Research When Buying a Home

Many prospective homeowners focus on location when they are house hunting—and with good reason. The location you choose can impact your quality of life. The following are a few examples of factors that contribute to your quality of life:

  • Good schools and school district
  • Low crime rates
  • Proximity to grocery stores
  • Strong access to transit
  • Good walkability score
  • Strong access to shops
  • Access to nature and outdoors

The right neighborhood can provide all these things and more. Understanding your priorities and conducting research based on those priorities will help you in your home search.

Start Your Search Online

Although you shouldn't do all your research online, the internet offers many resources to help you start your search. Here are a few examples:

  • City and neighborhood profiles: Many cities, towns, and villages, like Morgantown, West Virginia, have websites with information for residents and visitors. Websites like Zillow, Neighborhood Scout, and NextDoor offer a ground-level perspective on different cities and neighborhoods
  • Crime statistics: Check the websites of the local police department. Many towns and cities publish crime statistics and have community liaison officers who can answer your questions about local crimes
  • Sex offender registry: Almost all sex offenders must register with a local registry. You can search sex offender registries in and close to your desired neighborhood
  • Tax assessor's office: Search for the tax assessor's office to check the property tax history for properties of interest

Find a Good Real Estate Professional

Real estate agents and realtors are experts in their local real estate market. Their expertise goes beyond assessing home values and helping you find your dream home. They can help you navigate the housing market and answer questions related to your home search.

They can discuss neighborhood demographics as long as they adhere to the Fair Housing Act. The Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination in housing. So, real estate professionals cannot answer specific questions about protected characteristics. These protected characteristics include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Race
  • Gender
  • Sexual orientation
  • National origin
  • Disability
  • Familial status

For example, you can ask a real estate agent to describe the general demographics of a particular neighborhood. You cannot ask if there are a lot of children in a community.

Visit Neighborhoods

If you can, visit your potential new neighborhood. Drive around and look at the homes, businesses, and local environment at different times of the day. Talk to people at the coffee shop or the park to learn what the locals are like. Find out what people like and dislike about their neighborhood. See if the walk score matches the online walkability score.

Test Out Transportation

If transportation is a top priority, test out the public transportation system. For big cities, use the subway, trains, bus system, and even taxis to get a feel for cost, routes, and scheduling. Note how many transfers you must make between work or school and your potential new home.

If you have a car and expect to use it, drive around the city. Get a feel for local parking options and your route to and from work or school. Poor transportation options and bad traffic and parking can make life miserable.

Get Help

There are many aspects to researching neighborhoods. If you need help with the process, a qualified real estate attorney can help you navigate the home-buying process. Speak to an experienced real estate attorney near you today.

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