Whether you're planning to move across town or across the country, you probably want to know more about your new community. Where are the best local schools? Where are crime rates the lowest? What neighborhoods, or even streets, do the locals consider the most desirable? The character of a neighborhood can change within the space of a city block.
Finding out the answers to questions such as these is important not only for your quality of life, but to ensure that your home will have a high resale value.
Start by visiting the following websites:
- www.bestplaces.net. You'll find more than dry statistical data here -- everything from the best cities for dating to the worst ones for contracting respiratory infections are reported on.
- www.moving.com. For tools and articles including school reports, city comparisons, and demographic data, click the "Learn & Explore" tab.
- www.homefair.com. This site offers calculators to estimate your moving costs, school reports, city reports, crime statistics, and much more.
- www.homepages.com. A genuinely fun site, with satellite views of neighborhoods and buttons you can click to highlight schools, parks, restaurants, and more (complete with click-through names and addresses).
If you already live near your new prospective community, or will be visiting it before your home purchase, your next step is to walk and drive around the various neighborhoods. Ask people washing their cars or watering their lawns what they like and dislike about the area, and where the "best" nearby places to live are. While you're at it, ask about favorite local coffee shops or restaurants, and visit them yourself. This gives you another opportunity to meet and chat with locals.
If you're hoping to use public transportation after you move, give the local bus or subway line a "test run."
Local newspapers, particularly those that have a real estate section, are another good resource for finding out about new neighborhoods. Have a look at the listings for local events, the police blotter, and the editorials expressing local concerns.
For more detailed information, visit the local library or city planning department. And for more tips on evaluating neighborhoods, including advice from Bert Sperling, the guru of neighborhood research himself, see Nolo's Essential Guide to Buying Your First Home , by Ilona Bray, Alayna Schroeder, and Marcia Stewart.