Finding Your New Home: Researching a Neighborhood Before Buying
Thanks to the wonders of the Internet, you can now know every detail about all the people you’ve ever met—the breakfast menu of a childhood pal, which bar your ex frequents for happy hour, or even how your co-worker is “feeling” (illustrated with the proper emoticon, of course). But did you know the Web can also help you discover all the important information about a neighborhood? Here’s how to harness your Internet stalking skills to find the best places to live.
The first thing you probably want to know about your new neighborhood is how much you’ll have to pay to put a roof over your head. Zillow has a handy interactive chart that shows you how home values and rental prices have changed over the last 10 years.
You’ll also want to know how much of your salary will be going to income taxes and what the sales and property tax rates are like for your new home. Retirement Living offers a narrative summary on more state taxes than you had ever imagined, including taxes on inheritance, gasoline and cigarettes.
If a quick Google search doesn’t turn one up for your area, browse the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reports to see how many crimes and what types have been reported in a neighborhood.
You might have to dig a little, but the comprehensive information is worth it.If you are a parent, living alone or are often out late at night, you might be especially concerned about sex offenders living in your neighborhood. The Department of Justice has consolidated this information at the National Sex Offender Public Website.
Enough about crime and taxes. What most of us really want to know is what kind of quality of life we can expect in a neighborhood. Walk Score provides a quick look at how many restaurants are within walking distance, how extensive the bike paths are, and info on nearby transit routes including how far you can get on a bus or train in 30 minutes.
While the best public transit info is always found on the website for the service itself, Google Maps can be a good resource if you are looking at a lot of areas at once or if you don’t know that transit in Cincinnati is provided by the Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority. On Google Maps, zoom in until you can see little blue icons that look like the front of a bus. These are clickable links to more information about specific transit options at that location.
Whether you have kids or not, the quality of schools in a neighborhood is important to note. Areas with better schools often have higher home values. Some sites, like Walk Score and Neighborhood Scout, will give you a decent overview. But if you are a parent, you’ll want to dig deeper and find the local school district’s website to start getting the information you need to understand whether the local school is a good fit for your child.
Climate and Weather
Weather can be a very personal thing. Some people want 364 days of sunshine a year, and others crave being snowed in for very long winters. Luckily, The Weather Channel can help you find a region with the perfect climate for you. Their easy interface gives you detailed information about local weather including annual rainfall, humidity and pollen count.