Evaluating Neighborhoods

Evaluating Neighborhoods

You may have found the right house, but you’re not done! The neighborhood matters too!

How do you know if a neighborhood is a good fit?

Buyers tend to be very specific on the features they want in a house – number of bedrooms, bathroom, basement or no basement ,  garage or off-street parking, detached or townhouse, etc.

They are usually pretty sure on external factors like accessibility to public transportation and shopping.

But neighborhoods are way more complicated than those features and buyers are usually less specific in describing the perfect neighborhood. Most will say they want to be in a “good” neighborhood.

I say, “define good.”
Well, they say, “low crime would be important.”

I say, “define low.” Are two car thefts okay? One breaking and entering? No homicides? Over what period of time?

That may seem a little extreme, but it points out that “good” and “low” are subjective – the question is “good” or “low” compared to what?

If you’re asking your real estate agent or your friends or even the local police for advice, you have to realize that their experiences are likely different from yours. What is good to me might be awful to you. I may be happy settling for less than you would be. Maybe this crime-ridden neighborhood is so much better than where I came from that it seems good to me, but would be unthinkable for you.

So ask objective questions. If you get an opinion, such as “oh that area has horrible crime problems”, ask what kind? I might be horrified by bike thefts and if you don’t ask me, you might assume I’m talking about homicides! So ask lots of questions. If I’m the only victim of a violent crime in the past year, you’ll get a very different story from me than from all the other residents who were not victims of violent crimes.

Here’s an idea – do you like where you live now? Go to the Factsheet on Census.govand enter your current address.  (There is a list of additional resources at the bottom of this post.) Look at the average income per household, the average education per household, and so forth to get an idea of your current neighborhood demographics. Now look at your prospective neighborhood demographics.

The point isn’t for me to judge what makes a good neighborhood over a bad neighborhood; it’s just to add another tool to your arsenal of choosing a neighborhood you’ll like. Crime, income and education aren’t the be-all and end-all of neighborhood demographics, but it’s a start.

It may seem like a lot of work, but whether you’re spending $80,000 or $500,000 on a property, it’s a lot of money and it’s your money.

How to Evaluate Neighborhoods

CrimeReports.com has a direct link to most local police departments, showing the types of crime in an area.

HomesDataBase — click on Explore Your Neighborhood
City Crime Rates and Comparisons
National Crime Prevention Council
RealtyTimes Crime Check


(C) 2013 Susan Pruden.

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