You likely won’t be able to visit a coffee shop or stroll down a street during the coronavirus pandemic, but keep in mind that it’s still possible to explore a neighborhood during these uncertain times.
After all, finding the right place to live is very important. So, how can you scope out a new community right now? Here are some ways online detective work and the right tools can help you learn a lot about a place without ever leaving your home.
1. Check out neighborhood publications and local social media
An active community will sometimes have a print publication or local social media groups that connect residents. These can provide information on local events and activities that will give you a better feel for the neighborhood.
Browse Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for groups or accounts that document what’s going on in the neighborhood where you’re interested in moving. You can even interact with locals in the community who can give you their opinions of their locale.
2. Take a walk with Google
Google Street View is a great way to take a stroll around your potential new neighborhood without leaving the sofa. You can access Google Street View at google.com/maps, and then type in the address of the house you’re interested in and click on the photo of the property in the menu to the left of the map. If Google Street View is available for that address, you should be able to click and drag the image to move down the street.
3. Browse websites with neighborhood data
There are a lot of websites that can help you gather as much information as possible on your next neighborhood. City-Data provides detailed city profiles about everything from cost of living to weather to average home prices, and its forums offer useful insight from community locals.
You also can plug in your ZIP code at AreaVibes to get a livability score and help narrow down the best places to live, and Yelp not only provides reviews on local cafes, restaurants, and nightlife, but also unfiltered reviews from local residents.
4. Search other real estate listings
Browse online listings to learn about the typical architecture styles and ages of homes in a neighborhood. Is the neighborhood full of 1950’s ranch homes or 100-year-old Victorians? Looking at the homes for sale will clue you in.
5. Call your real estate agent
Your real estate agent can help you use technology to test-drive the neighborhood. This can easily be done by making a video of the neighborhood and sharing it with you.
If you’ve found a home you’re interested in, contact the listing agent for more information about the neighborhood. The pro will be sure to have an insider’s perspective on the area and extensive knowledge of homes there.
6. Investigate schools and educational data
Relocating with your family? Then you will want to research schools in the area. A good resource is GreatSchools, which provides data on K-12 schools and reviews from parents.
Areas with great schools typically maintain property values, and its neighborhoods are highly coveted. If you want to research education statistics, U.S. News & World Report has rankings of high schools with data on more than 23,000 public high schools in all 50 states.
7. Check crime rates
Safety is a priority for both buyers and renters, and crime rates can give you a picture of how safe or dangerous a neighborhood is. Low crime rates are not only safer, but also can help maintain high property values.
Websites such as CrimeReports can provide crime data from law enforcement agencies. To see if there are registered sex offenders living nearby, type the address of your potential new home in the National Sex Offender Registry’s online search tool.
8. Plan your daily commute
You also will want to use tools like Waze or Google Maps to monitor traffic and your potential work commute. These tools will predict the level of traffic during your commute hours and give you an idea of how long it will take to get to work.