How to Research a Neighborhood Before You Buy or Rent

Everyone is looking for something different in a neighborhood. Some people enjoy socializing with their neighbors, and others prefer a more introverted atmosphere. To find the right neighborhood for you, first write down what your ideal neighborhood is like, then follow these five critical tips for researching neighborhoods.

1. Check School Ratings

Even if you don't plan on having children, positive school ratings are a sign of a good neighborhood. School ratings also influence your home's value. Neighborhoods in highly rated school districts are often safer than those in poorly rated school districts.

Check a school's ratings on numerous sites and pay attention to test scores, student access to advanced courses, graduation rates, suspension rates and student attendance rates. These measurements help you determine the quality and safety of the school district.

2. Consider Walkability Scores

Look for a walkability score between 70 and 100. You'll save time and gas money when driving because stores where you can buy essentials are closeby in a neighborhood with a high walkability score. Another benefit of a walkable neighborhood is you can walk to get essentials if your car breaks down. If you like walking to nearby stores, the walkability score of the neighborhood is even more important.

3. Review Crime Levels

Check the crime statistics to find a safe, low-crime neighborhood. Sites that have crime statistics include AreaVibes, NeighborhoodScout and SpotCrime. You can find the addresses of registered sex offenders in a neighborhood on Family Watchdog. By law, this information is available to the public.

If the neighborhood has abandoned houses, homes that have been vacant for a year and vacant storefronts, this is a sign the neighborhood isn't safe. A high number of fast food places and quickie marts and the lack of healthy food options often indicates the neighborhood has higher crime. Businesses that sell higher-end products don't want to set up or stay in high crime areas.

4. Talk to People Who Live There

If you're able to, drive through the neighborhood to get an idea of its safety and community. Talk to some of the people who live there to see if it's a place they would recommend. Start off by asking open-ended questions, and listen to everything they have to say. This helps you get honest insights on the neighborhood. Examples of questions you can ask are "How would you describe the neighborhood?" and "What is it like living in the area?"

5. Meet With Community Leaders

If a neighborhood you're considering has community leaders like an HOA president, a neighborhood watch group or a neighborhood association, you may want to meet with them to see if you get along. Community leaders will often be happy to meet with you as they find it important to be involved in the community. You can ask them what it's like to live in the area.

You're bound to find a compatible neighborhood when you thoroughly research your options by following the five tips listed above. Safety and having the right atmosphere for your personality will ensure you feel happy in your new home.


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