What to Research When Buying a Home
When you buy a home, you’ll want to do research on the neighborhood and surrounding area. You’ll want to know all you can about the home itself, the community, the HOA and the surrounding municipalities. There are a number of great resources to find this data and as your East Bay experts, we’ve compiled a list for you.
When you start your neighborhood research, look for the following:
- Home Values: This is where most people start. Find neighborhoods that fit your price range. Check for long-term value trends.v You can reach out to The East Bay Team’s Buyer agents Anne and Josh Keller or Robert Jones for their expertise in this area.
- Schools and Education: If you’re raising a family in the neighborhood, the schools are obvious. But even if you’re not, good schools are a good indicator for the community.
- Cost of Living Index: If you’re moving in from out of the area, you’ll want to know how far your dollar will stretch.
- Crime: Crime isn’t usually a place to compromise. You might give up close access to public parks in exchange for a great transit system, but there’s not much you’ll trade for living in an unsafe area. Be sure to check up on the local crime reports.
- Culture: What do you and your family enjoy doing? Think about it all, from movies and theatre, to hiking and ball fields, to record and comic book stores.
- Demographics: Check the data on the area, and be sure there are playmates for the kids, diversity, and a neighborhood trending right along with you.
How to Research a Neighborhood: Resources
There’s a ton of resources out there for researching the demographics and other information on a neighborhood before buying. Below is a list of those that will give you a good, broad understand of the area you’re researching.
- Two of our favorite resources for learning about a neighborhood before buying a home might be obvious:
- A trusted advisor, i.e. your Realtor. Anthony Riggins has sold over $600M of properties in Oakland, Piedmont, Berkeley and the surrounding East Bay Area.h Anthony and his team know these neighborhoods.
- Your eyeballs and sound judgement: check the house and neighborhood on different days of the week and hours of the day. Talk to neighbors. Get a feel of the neighborhood.
- Best Places is a website that provides a good summary of area data, from home values to education to demographics.
- Census.gov’s FactFinder, provides all kinds of data including income, population, age, and other information.
- Use Salary.com to check salaries in the area and cost of living comparisons. Retirement Living has a good breakdown of taxes in each state.
- NETRonline provides access to public records on properties, including environmental data, public records, and property data.
- Local news sites and blogs. Check out for what’s going on, crime reports, and other info and news in these publications.
- Google. When you Google a neighborhood and even a specific address, you can find local businesses, news, and even forum discussions about the neighborhood.
- Check community calendars for events and activities. Visit Oakland and Berkeleyside are great resources.
- You can always find restaurants on Google and Yelp!. We’ve also recommended a few great places to eat here in our area.
- Find the best schools at GreatSchools. Oakland, Piedmont and Berkeley as well as Lafayette, Moraga and Orinda have excellent schools.
Community Analysis and Assessment
The best way to get to know an area is to get out into the community and get a feel for it. Take public transportation if that’s important to you. Visit public buildings, such as museums, schools, libraries or parks. As we mentioned above, check these out at different times of day and different days of the week. For example, Lake Merritt can really change personality from day to night, from Monday to Saturday.
Stop at a local restaurant or the ‘downtown’ area for lunch on a day you’re doing your own foot research. Ask the locals what they think. East Bay residents are so friendly! And they love to boast about how amazing it is here! There’s no better way to get to know a community than by immersing yourself in it!
How to Check Crime Before Buying a House
This is the negative side of researching a neighborhood, but it’s a reality. Don’t let it scare you. Your first searches through crime stats and sex offender data can be shocking. Give yourself a comparison. Do the same searches on your current neighborhood as a baseline. Here are some resources to help you in your crime search:
- Apps: SpotCrime+ for Android and Crime Reports for iPhone
- Citizen for Andriod and iPhone is a new real time crime app that gives you instant access to information about crimes near you.
- Websites such as CrimeReports.com and SpotCrime.com offer interactive maps with crime reports.
- Sex Offenders: US Justice Department National Sex Offender Search and Family Watchdog provide maps and other info on potential sex offenders in the area.
- Again, talk to the neighbors. Ask them what areas you might avoid, which neighborhoods have declined, what the current trends are in crime and drug use in the area.
- Talk to your Realtor: are there an unusual number of homes for sale in the area? That might be a sign that there has been an uptick in crime.
Before you make your final decision on buying a home, you get it inspected. Put at least the same effort into inspecting the neighborhood and surrounding area. Gathering data, demographics and research on a neighborhood before you buy can prevent buyers remorse and give you the peace of mind you need when you finally pull the moving van up to your new home.