Buying a house in a neighborhood you don’t know very well? While it might look nice at the outset, you never really know what happens after dark (or in broad daylight, for that matter).
That’s why you should find out as much as possible about your potential neighborhood’s safety and crime rates so you’ll know if it’s alright for children, and whether you can park your car outside without the risk of it being broken into or vandalized. Unfortunately, real estate agents can’t legally answer your questions about neighborhood safety due to the Fair Housing Act.
So, that means you’ll have to do the detective work yourself. Here, realtor.com offers some suggestions that can help you determine the safety of your new neighborhood on your own.
1. Begin your research online
Explore what pops up after typing “crime rates in [your new neighborhood]” in several search engines. Some trustworthy online tools you can use to determine the safety of a neighborhood include City Data, AreaVibes or Community Crime Map. You also can consult public records such as police reports, which often are listed in local papers or online.
If you’re specifically concerned about exactly who might be living in the neighborhood (especially as it relates to the safety of your children), you can always do a quick search on the National Sex Offender Public Website as well.
2. Talk to the locals
Gauge the neighborhood’s safety by chatting with the neighbors themselves. If you see people outside, stop and ask them directly how the neighborhood is.
You also could reach out to the neighborhood homeowner’s association, or check out online forums such as Nextdoor, Reddit or Quora, which can offer a glimpse into local gossip, and help you catch on to anything good or bad that’s happening in the neighborhood.
4. Walk the neighborhood
Plan on driving or walking through your new neighborhood at different times during the day before deciding whether or not to live there. Some things to be on the lookout for the types of cars your neighbors have, and whether or not people take care of their homes and yards.
You’ll also want to notice whether houses have tall gates or security fences; if the windows have bars; and if broken glass is scattered on the pavement (which could mean car break-ins are frequent in the area).
5. Trust your instincts
If you visit your new neighborhood and don’t feel safe enough to walk around alone, then all of the online crime maps in the world really don’t mean a thing.
Consider your lifestyle and how it fits into the new place: Will you feel safe on your morning run? Will you be comfortable letting your kids play outside, or parking your friend’s car on the street overnight? If you have any concerns about the neighborhood, you probably shouldn’t move there.