When you are considering moving to a new area, buying or renting, one of your biggest considerations is likely the location. Proximity to friends/family/work/shopping/parks are important factors, but also…how safe is the area you are looking at moving to? Maybe you want to know if the local schools are any good too. Ever tried to ask your real estate agent about if a neighborhood is a “good area” or has “good schools”? You probably (and should have) received a vague answer.
Your agent isn’t purposely giving you the run-around, I promise! Real estate agents can easily find themselves having to explain why they can’t narrow down homes on the market based on some of the client’s preferences because the requests potentially touch on protected classes. Certain details about a neighborhood or community can violate the Fair Housing Act, which was enacted in 1968 to eliminate housing discrimination. The law protects against discrimination based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex, disability or family status. In particular, it prohibits any real estate professional from steering prospective homebuyers or renters toward or away from a community based on any of the classes under federal protection.
So while real estate agents can’t (and don’t want) to decide which neighborhood or house is best for you, they can provide the tools and resources to find the community that meets your needs. Thankfully finding out information about a neighborhood is easier than in the past because the Internet offers resources homebuyers couldn’t previously access. But you will need to do your own research.
Do a few old-fashioned visits to the neighborhood at different times of the day. Seeing the neighborhood at night vs the day, stopping to talk with potential new neighbors, and just asking questions at the local grocery or convenience store can give you some great insight into the area.
Check out online resources for crime. Here’s a few of my favorites:
- Minnesota Public Registrant Search
- Community Crime Map
- Neighborhood Scout
- Niche (Explore local schools)
- The Neighbors App by Ring (known for its Ring doorbell cameras and Ring Alarm home security system) aims to be an online neighborhood watch program. You don’t have to be a Ring customer to use the app. It’s free to download and use no matter what security system or devices you own.
- Contact the local Neighborhood Watch Group. And if you ultimately move to the area, join (or start) a local watch! Neighborhood Watch was launched in 1972. Groups of citizens get involved and work with law enforcement, where they learn how to keep a trained eye and ear on their communities. Neighborhood watch groups are one of the most successful ways of deterring crime, both by reducing opportunities for crime to occur, as well as, demonstrating their presence to would-be criminals at all times day and night. Learn more: https://www.nnw.org