Piggy-backing off of yesterday's post, how does one look into a new area and decide where they want to live? Especially post-covid when buyers are looking at all new, more-affordable areas when working completely virtually, it can be difficult to nail down exactly where Home might be.
Here are my tips for doing your research on exploring a new area and picking your new neighborhood.
1) Even if you don't have kids, mine data on school districts
You might not have kids now, or may never want them, or maybe you are an empty nester who doesn't need to shop school districts - regardless, educate yourself about the school districts for potential resale. If you think an entire school district is the same but you fall within the one poorly-ranked elementary school in the district, then you are buying in a less desirable area and thus should know that before purchase.
Review sites such as GreatSchools.org, Niche.com and Schooldigger.com for basic rankings.
That being said, when actually picking schools for your children, delve deeper into your own wants and needs in a school. A particular school might have a lower ranking only because of test scores. Or perhaps diversity or a certain program is more desirable to your own family.
2) Look at whats nearby
This is hard when we are in the midst of covid, but exploring the local area, in person or via Google maps, is a helpful to get a sense of what you might have access to.
First, just looking at local grocery stores and hardware stores is helpful. Being near a Trader Joes or Whole Foods, for example, might actually bring value to your home. Being close to the Home Depot will make those weekend DIY projects easier.
But further, look at whats available in terms of restaurants and leisure. Many more desirable areas are located near a downtown-hub. Are there a few nice places to eat, a few cute shops, a fun brewery? Are the shops long standing or are you seeing some newer businesses (potentially risky but also a good sign of an up-and-coming neighborhood).
Further, if your favorite weekend hobby is outdoor walks with the pooch, then make sure you research parks for dog rules and search nearby dog parks. Similarly, spotting nearby playgrounds is helpful!
3) Review crime data
If you are completely unfamiliar with an area, do your research on local crime. Local police websites, Crimemapping.com and NeighborhoodScout.com are good tools to get some data. Just be sure to look back over several years, if possible. Just looking at 2020 will likely get you some skewed results thanks to the pandemic. Also, be sure to break down crime maps - you might see one area hit by a lot of car thefts in a short period of time but no house thefts, for instance.
4) Get online
Luckily, a lot about a place can be uncovered in social media. Visiting sites like Nextdoor can help you but even looking at the Facebook pages of local restaurants, parks, bars, or even schools can tell you a lot about those institutions, their patrons and the level of interaction.
And for more data, looking at things like average age, renters vs buyers, average home income, etc on sites like NeighborhoodScout.com can help you get a clearer, online picture of the neighborhood dynamics.
Even if you have to do it via Google Maps, spend time "driving" around. You'll quickly get a feel for different neighborhoods, accessibility, traffic, etc.
And when we are post-pandemic, taking a weekend to make the most of this in person is one of the funnest parts of house shopping!