Updated: October 27, 2021
Whether you are considering moving to a new locale or wondering if it is time to leave your existing neighborhood, thorough research is critical to making a wise decision. We have curated informational tips, resources and tools by key topics to help with your effort, including: Neighborhood Profiles; Property Taxes; School Ratings & Choice Options; Crime Statistics; and Zoning.
How-To’s for Researching a Neighborhood Before Buying
- How to find a city or neighborhood that is a good fit for your needs?
- How to find the most recent property tax paid on a home?
- How to estimate the property tax for a given price range of a house?
- How to research local schools when moving to a new location?
- How to find school choice options by state?
- How to find the school district & schools for a given city, zip code or address?
- How to research zoning laws and regulations in your local community?
- How to research crime trends in your local community?
How to find a city or neighborhood that is a good fit for your needs?
We recommend using Niche’s Best Places to Live database that is helpful for discovering prospective cities, towns and neighborhoods, based on key living preferences, as well as looking up profiles of areas in which you are already interested (e.g. metro areas, cities, towns, zip codes or neighborhoods).
Another helpful tool to identify desirable areas that meet your priorities is AreaVibes. Their scoring methodology is called Livability, which uses seven different categories (amenities, cost of living, crime, employment, housing, schools and user ratings) to rate cities, neighborhoods and zip codes.
How to find the most recent property tax paid on a home?
The easiest way to view the current property tax amount and assessed value for tax purposes is to search the street address on Zillow. Then scroll down the property page to the Property Tax History section. This will show both the tax amount paid and the current assessed value. To calculate the current property tax rate, divide the tax amount by the assessed value (e.g. $10,000 Tax Amount / $1,000,000 Assessed Value = a 1.0% Tax Rate).
You can also visit the County Tax Assessor website for the home in question and locate the property tax search tool, using either the street address or Assessor Parcel Number (APN). The Tax Assessor’s site will provide a longer historical view of the assessed value as well as more details on the property and lot in question.
How to estimate the property tax for a given price range of a house?
If you do not yet have a specific address of a home, SmartAsset’s Property Tax Calculator can be used to calculate an estimated property tax amount for a specific area and home price. They use an average tax rate for the given county or municipality. Incorporating property tax payments is a critical part of determining the affordability of a locale and corresponding home. Keep in mind that tax rates may differ significantly between two adjacent counties, which could sway your home purchase decision.
How to research local schools when moving to a new location?
There are several national websites that provide ratings on individual schools and districts for all grade levels, for both public and private institutions. We recommend trying each to determine which is easier to use for your specific search criteria. A helpful feature is using an interactive map to isolate on a specific school district, view and filter on its associated schools, and then see currently available homes for sale.
How to find school choice options by state?
The following links are provided by non-profits whose missions are to help parents gain more flexibility when choosing educational options for their children. These resources are especially pertinent if the most desirable school districts may be price prohibitive for the home that you require.
- Center for Education Reform: Parent Power Index
- EdChoice.org: School Choice in America Interactive Dashboard
- EdChoice.org: ABCs of School Choice Guide (PDF)
- Federation for Children: Interactive Map of School Choice Programs by State
- 7 Tips for Choosing the Right School for Your Child
- National School Choice Week: School Choice Roadmaps by State
How to find the school district & schools for a given city, zip code or address?
To find the school district and associated schools for a specific city, zip code or street address use the interactive map feature from GreatSchools.org. The schools of a specific district can then be further filtered by school grade (Elementary, Middle, High) and school type (charter and private).
How to research zoning laws and regulations in your local community?
New laws enacted within your property’s jurisdiction could have a profound effect on the quality of life within a neighborhood. Changes in single family zoning laws or newly enacted legislations that allow for multi-family zoning or denser populations within suburban areas are threats that may increase traffic, noise or congestion. Pay strict attention to zoning law changes that:
- Allow unregulated, short-term, Airbnb-type, rental arrangements
- Permit new construction that would deviate from the neighborhood’s current characteristics, i.e. multi-family condominiums in a single family residential suburban tract
- Disallow changes to your existing structure that you had planned, i.e. additional square footage to your existing home, a fence around your property, etc.
To stay current on local legislations, be sure to pay particular attention to new zoning regulations by attending City Council and neighborhood meetings. Should regulations be placed on the ballot as a referendum during an election, make sure to vote.
How to research crime trends in your local community?
Understanding the crime data trend for your current neighborhood is extremely valuable to help you make a decision to move before there is a glut of homes already on the market. Information about registered sex offenders who have recently moved into your area is especially helpful information if you have children or grandchildren. If you do not see crime data for your area of interest, especially in the LexisNexis Community Crime Map, it is recommended to reach out to the Public Information Officer of the local Police Department to request that they join the map. By clicking on the Meta tab on the interactive map, you can see which police departments have supplied data for the given map view.
Overall Crime Statistics
LexisNexis® Community Crime Map
LexisNexis® Community Crime Map is best viewed in Internet Explorer 11+, Firefox V27+ and Chrome V30+
Registered Sex Offenders
Dru Sjodin National Sex Offender Public Website
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