Deb Tebbs Group

Cascade Sotheby's International Realty

Research Your Future Home and Neighborhood

How to Research Your Future Home and Neighborhood

Moving to a new neighborhood can be an exciting time for the family, but it can be a lot of work too. One important part of the whole process is deciding where you want to live, and in which neighborhoods you want to start searching for your new home. This part of the whole experience can seem a bit daunting, especially if you’re moving to anew city or state, and perhaps have to find a new neighborhood and home without even being able to visit first.

First Step: Decide on your Deal-breakers

Before you start the research process, understand one important thing: thorough research can be extremely time-consuming. It can really help you cut through the process if you make some preliminary decisions first, specifically in terms of things you want and don’t want in a neighborhood. For example, if your family includes children, one of your “must-haves” might be living in a particular school district, so that they’ll have the opportunity to attend. Right away, this allows you to narrow your focus on just a few different neighborhoods. You might want to live in a neighborhood with a good “walkability” score, meaning that most important amenities are within easy walking distance, or you might want to live within a certain distance of the beach, or within a certain driving distance of your place of work.

On the other hand, there may be some things that you consider deal-breakers, that you definitely don’t want in a neighborhood; depending on your circumstances and family, you might decide to exclude neighborhoods near busy roads or commercial or industrial areas, halfway houses or rehabilitation facilities, or areas that have a high amount of nighttime noise. While some people actively search for neighborhoods in certain school districts, others do exactly the opposite—because school districts can have a significant effect on house prices, and houses in desirable districts are usually in high demand and more expensive.

Next: Researching Neighborhoods

The internet makes researching your future home so much easier than it used to be, so much so that it’s one of those things that makes you wonder how people got along without it. There’s a huge number of websites now that provide various details about neighborhoods, suburbs, towns, and cities—enough to help you make informed choices about locations before you even visit them.

– Climate and weather conditions at The Weather Channel

– Find detailed crime and safety statistics in the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reports.

– At Walkscore you can find information about the walkability of neighborhoods and what types of amenities are located within them.

Neighborhood Scout provides a wide range of information, including summaries of schools, crime statistics, home appreciation rates, and neighborhood demographics.

Google Maps can be a good resource for preliminary information about public transit services; MapQuest provides easy functionality for searching for amenities within given neighborhoods.

Street Advisor is full of contributions from residents of thousands of different neighborhoods all over the country, and is a good place to get current information.

One of the most useful resources for finding out about neighborhoods from the people who live in them is the website City Data. The site has a large number of forums where members can ask and answer questions about specific places, as well as a huge range of statistics and information about US cities and towns of all sizes, and several different tools and resources. For example, the site includes a tool that allows users to search for business in different neighborhoods, enter a zip code or address to get average home prices, or plot a starting point and destination on a map, and calculate the amount of fuel used for the trip.

Getting a Closer Look

With all this information at hand, it’s easy to narrow your search to a handful of neighborhoods, or maybe even just one or two. Then, using Google Street View, you can actually tour through the neighborhoods themselves, so even if you’re researching neighborhoods in another city or state, it’s still possible to “walk” the streets and get a good feel for the locations you’re interested in.

– Contributed by reader, Emma Flixton


Discover. “Stalking your new Home: Researching a Neighborhood Before Buying.” Accessed July 5, 2014. Research methods for potential neighborhoods.

Lifehacker. “How to Learn All About a New City Without Leaving Your House.” Accessed July 5, 2014. Researching neighborhoods at a distance.

Public School Review. “Why you need to Research School Districts when Buying a Home.” Accessed July 5, 2014. How school districts affect house prices.

Wise Bread. “How to Evaluate a Neighborhood Before You Buy.” Accessed July 5, 2014. Different aspects of neighborhoods.

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