Obviously, I'm the first person to advocate for hiring a great real estate agent to help guide you through your home search! Invaluable for so many reasons! That said, it is also important to do some of your own research when considering a home purchase. There are certain things that real estate agents aren't allowed to or choose not to share with clients due to the Fair Housing Act. More info on that here.
This means that, in some cases, it's up to you to do your own research. Below are three important factors that it would be wise to look into on your own before you decide to settle down in any particular neighborhood. I recommend doing a thorough check regardless of whether you're moving in to the center of an established town or an up-and-coming area.
1. Crime rates
Before moving to a new area it's important to get a sense of the area's crime rates so you know if you would feel safe walking home alone at night, or what your risk is for a break-in. Real estate agents can point you in the right direction to find this information, but cannot advise you on whether a neighborhood is "safe" or not, since that is a subjective term. Here are some great places to gather information.
AreaVibes is a useful tool - it ranks your neighborhood, address, or zip code with a letter grade based on crime statistics. If you're unhappy with the grade for your potential new neighborhood, it can suggest other neighborhoods nearby that may be a better fit. If you're looking for even more detailed information, Neighborhood Scout is a paid service that will generate an in-depth report for you about crime statistics in your area.
Families with young children may want to take their search one step further and check to see if there are any registered sex offenders in the immediate area you're looking to calling home. Family Watchdog is a free website that lists the locations of known registrants nearby, as well as their identifying characteristics.
2. School District
For many parents, the school their kids will be able to attend is an important factor in their home search - of course you would want to make sure that your children have access to the best available education! If you're moving to a new area, consider checking Great! Schools first. It shows you all the available schools in the near vicinity, and rates them from 1-10. It also allows you to read reviews from other parents of children currently in attendance.
Even if you don't yet have kids and having a family isn't in your near future, it's still worth it to take a peek at the quality of the local school district before you buy. Put simply, the school district affects resale value. If you buy in an area where the schools are doing well, you'll be more likely to attract buyers and a higher sale price in the future.
3. Resale values
Even though it may seem counter-intuitive to be looking at resale values before you even put in an offer on a home, it is always wise to plan for the future. Ideally, you'll want to settle in an area where property values are on the rise so that eventually you'll be able to capitalize on added equity, as well as a place where homes sell relatively quickly.
Ask your real estate agent for this information. Their multiple listing service will give them access to the property's resale history and they can share the information with you. Keep in mind, resale values aren't necessarily set in stone. If the recession in 2007 taught us anything, it's that property values can change quickly. Bottom line - historical resale values are not a guarantee of future success, but it's still wise to know the information, then you can make an educated decision based off of the statistics.
Searching for a new home is so exciting! Keeping these few details in mind while tailoring you search will help to ensure that you find the right home for you (and that you make a sound investment in the process).
Always remember, I am here for you! If you have questions or need help with anything, I am just a phone call, text, or email away. Let's chat!