How to Research Neighborhoods
Location, location, location — it's not only key to retaining property value, it may also be the key to new home happiness. Good schools, low crime, access to transit, shops, entertainment, and nature all factor into a good quality of life. These same features will also help your home retain its resale value.
It's well worth a buyer's time to research neighborhoods before they even connect with a realtor. Some realtors specialize in certain neighborhoods. If you know this is where you want to look, you can choose a real estate agent who knows the area well. (On the other hand, you can choose the realtor you feel most comfortable with and let them guide you.)
This article discusses ways to effectively research neighborhoods. Although Findlaw cannot guarantee results, and you should conduct your own independent research, the websites mentioned in this article may be useful for you.
Start Your Search Online
There are many websites that can help you kick off your search.
- Find good schools: There are several school review websites, such as Public School Review, Great Schools, Niche, and School Digger.
- "Best Places to Live": Do a search on "best places to live" and you'll find reviews of cities and towns all across the nation that meet the criteria. US News, Best Places, Money, Business Insider, and CBS News create a new list every year. Customize the search for your specific needs: "best place to retire," "best place to raise children." You may be surprised by what you find.
- City and neighborhood profiles: These sites have gathered the hard data and, in some cases, personal reviews of communities across the U.S.: Niche, Livability, and AreaVibes. You can also visit the website of the city or community you are interested in.
- Cost of living and moving information: Moving.com, Homefair
Read the Local Paper
Many communities have a small local paper with at least some news stories online. What new developments are occurring in the area? What issues are being debated? What kind of social and sports activities are there?
If you are able to, visit your potential new neighborhood. Drive around and look at the homes, businesses, and local environment. Talk to people at the coffee shop or the park to get to know what the locals are like. Find out what people like and dislike about their neighborhood.
Schedule School Visits
Once you have narrowed down your choice of communities, consider scheduling a visit at your top choice school(s). Bring your children to get their take on the school. Meet with the principal. Check out the facilities, academic services, and extracurricular activities. Be sure to call ahead and check in with the school's office prior to visiting and observe the schools' visitor policies.
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 the parking situation, traffic during rush hours, and your route to and from work or school. Poor transportation options and bad traffic and parking can make life miserable.
FindLaw Home Buyer's Guide
Confused about the home-buying process? Check out FindLaw's Home Buyer's Guide, with advice on everything from how to choose a realtor to the legal ins and outs of buying and selling a home.
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