Thursday, September 1, 2011

Good Websites, Make Good Neighbors -- Top 5 Neighborhood Websites

Buyers often ask how they can choose a good neighborhood when they look to buy a house. If a house is your castle, the neighborhood is your kingdom. Choosing a neighborhood is as personal as choosing a house or a spouse. People often have specific ideas about what makes a neighborhood feel like home. Your agent can help direct you to resources, but will be unable to answer questions about some subjects due to restrictions in the Fair Housing Law. I love doing online neighborhood research and have a system that works well for me.

It is helpful to start by making a list of things that are most important to you like commute time, schools, nearby services, community resources, age of the houses, topography, walkscore and anything else that you feel is important. Organize these into two columns: non negotiable and like to have. Then, look for specific information for each neighborhood you are considering. Some of my favorite sites for neighborhood research are:

1. Zillow local pages are available by zip, city/state and neighborhood are well organized and have detailed information about neighborhood residents, housing types and appreciation. 

2. City-Data has an excellent street level forum that is a great place to ask for uncensored street level information about the feel of neighborhoods, commutes and local schools by zip.

3. Zip Skinny will allow you to compare neighborhoods side by side in many categories like income, unemployment level, education level and demographics by zip code.

4.  Crime Reports and Spot Crime are two helpful sites for mapping recent police calls in local neighborhoods. Many police departments also have their own sites available.

5. Walk Score will map your commute, walking distances to schools and grocery stores and will show you what local services are nearby the area that you are considering.

You should also consider the less tangible things that you are looking for in a neighborhood. What kind of neighbors you would like to live near? How is the neighborhood for walking? Are there safe areas to play nearby in either a park or for a pick up game of street football? Is the area quiet? How are the local schools? How is parking?

Get all the information you can, talk with local residents and then you can choose a neighborhood that makes your new castle feel like home.

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