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Before buying a new home, you should carefully check out the neighborhood you plan to move to. To make an informed decision:
- Know the facts. Learn about neighborhood crime statistics, school quality, road conditions, future development plans and more.
- Walk around the neighborhood. Visit at different times of the day and strike up conversations with neighbors.
- Search online. A simple Google Maps search can help you see if there are schools, grocery stores, doctors, transit stops, and more near you.
The neighborhood matters
When you ask a real estate agent the three most important things about a home, they’re likely to say, “Location, location, location.” But that’s only because “Safe Neighborhood, Safe Neighborhood, Safe Neighborhood” doesn’t sound as catchy.
Before buying a new home, you should carefully check out the neighborhood you plan to move to. County Records, Facebook, Google, Google Earth, and other online resources can all be friends to help you avoid a big mistake.
Questions to ask
The plot and view of a candidate home is a big part of the appeal of its location. But its neighborhood can be at least as important.
Are the schools good? Is quality health care easily accessible? How long will my journey be? Is crime low, and was the guy next door recently arrested for dealing crack cocaine from his house? Is there a good supermarket nearby? How far is the nearest mall? Are there plans to build a highway or an airport runway at the end of the back yard?
You need to know the answers to these and other questions.
Walk before the web
No matter how good your online research skills are, nothing beats exploring the streets around your future home on foot. You’ll notice details you’d never notice in a car or on Google Street View. And, of course, you can hear and smell things.
Try to visit at different times of the day. Your new neighbor’s son may only get his drums out in the evenings or on weekends. And maybe there was a reason the student house on the other side was so quiet on the morning of the open house: its residents were too hungover to get up after one of their frequent parties. nocturnal.
Walking around also gives you the opportunity to probe your new neighbors’ brains on what it’s like to live on your next street. Stop by to chat, make friends, ask questions and get lean.
The global web is your oyster
Google Maps could be your natural starting point online. Type in the address of your potential home, then click “Nearby”.
You can then choose the types of places you want to search: restaurants, schools, shops, hospitals, gyms, etc. If the type of institution you want to search for is not in the list presented, enter it in the search field, for example, “hospital” or “school”.
By clicking on “Routes” you will see approximate routes, distances and travel times. If available, you can choose between driving, walking and public transport.
You can use the school search page on a United States Department of Education website to find a local map showing all the public schools in an area. Click on “school profile” for more details on each.
To find public school rankings and grades for a district, try PSK12.com.
Consumer Reports has a web tool which provides a list of hospitals in your city, county or state with rankings and ratings. It also provides record information for each installation in certain limited performance categories.
You can learn more about local family doctors (primary care doctors) through patient reviews on Yelp and Angie’s List. However, these are not always accurate or helpful. Consumer Reports has a helpful article on “How to find a good doctor.”
Type your postal code in the CrimeReports website to find recent incidents in this area. You’ll be presented with a map showing pins, which when clicked provide more detail. And you can narrow your search to find older criminal activity.
For details of registered sex offenders living nearby, use the search engine on this US Department of Justice website. You can type in the address of the house you plan to buy (or the school your children will attend) and discover such offenders within a radius of up to three miles.
Other Resources which may prove useful information are the local courthouse and county or city offices. These can usually provide records on a home going back at least 20 years, including deeds and encumbrances, such as mortgages or other encumbrances.
You can often access these records online. But it should be remembered that posting information on these websites may take some time. So don’t count on their full update. If you have time and proximity, a visit may be better.
For more information on the region’s demographics, check out the 2010 U.S. Census via his website. You can browse your state to your census division. And it will give you a breakdown of the local population by age, gender, race, ethnicity and housing status.
Be sure to check the local papers to get an idea of the place. It can give you real insight into what’s going on and what residents are concerned about.
Cost of Shortcuts
You can find a shortcut to some of the information above using a website such as Neighborhood Scout. It can also provide you with detailed analysis of the housing market and house price trends in the area.
However, there is a minimum number of searches you must pay for on the site. So it may be better to use it at the beginning of the process, when you are pre-selecting neighborhoods. And only if you are happy with the price.
To be realistic
Don’t expect a neighborhood this side of Alpha Centauri to be perfect. As you know all too well, buying a home is all about trading things off your wish list.
And this applies to streets and areas, as well as houses. So have realistic expectations when visiting the neighborhood.
What are today’s mortgage rates?
No matter which neighborhood you choose, your home will be more attractive if you pay less to finance it. And that’s possible with today’s low mortgage rates. Simply contact multiple lenders (easy to do here) for quotes and pick your best deal.
The information contained on The Mortgage Reports website is provided for informational purposes only and does not constitute advertising for products offered by Full Beaker. The views and opinions expressed herein are those of the author and do not reflect the policy or position of Full Beaker, its officers, parent company or affiliates.