Find Your Perfect Neighborhood without Leaving Your Seat
Location, location, location. That’s the mantra of real estate. The challenge becomes how do you determine your ideal location to relocate if you don’t live near that area? Thankfully there are many ways to get a “lay of the land” while sitting behind your computer in your pajamas!
You need to know the type of neighborhood you are after. Real estate investors and professionals often rank neighborhoods using an A-F scale, where A class neighborhoods have large, well-kept homes in the best school districts with low crime rates. Many neighborhoods are in the B to C range and are often described as “working class”. The lower the grade, the less likely those characteristics will remain.
First, start by searching the area using Google Maps to find where the different classes of neighborhoods are located. The best way to classify neighborhoods is to search for stores and businesses common to each one. For example, Starbucks and Panera locations are likely near A and B-class neighborhoods. Pay-day loan companies, on the other hand, are likely located in C through F-class neighborhoods. Search for the relevant stores and businesses and write down the names of the neighborhoods in close proximity.
The second step is use Google’s street view feature to spot check streets to get a sense of the homes in those neighborhoods.
Do a web search for the city/state to find the city’s website. Often these sites will include information for specific neighborhoods and may include photos and video.
A picture is worth a thousand words, or so we are told. Sites like Flickr.com and 500px.com can be searched by at least city level but sometimes can sometimes drill down on neighborhoods.
Another source are community and neighborhood-specific websites like Livability.com and Neighborhoodscout.com. These sites often aggregate a lot of information from the Internet, government departments and publication, and possibly local experts as contributors.
You can and should learn as much as possible about the areas where you are interested in buying a home by using these sources. But no amount of modern technology will substitute seeing an area, or home, in person. Book a cheap flight and AirBnB and see the neighborhood first-hand.