Location is usually the most important thing to someone looking for a home. So how do you know whether a particular location is a good place to live? Can I just ask my Realtor?
Due to fair housing laws, there are a lot of questions Realtors cannot answer. The answer is subjective to each person's own experiences and expectations. Anything referring to the ages of people, racial make up, or safety of a neighborhood is off limits. Although we may not be able to answer a specific question, we can help guide buyers to information to form their own conclusions.
The first thing I recommend to buyers is to go through a neighborhood at different times of the day to get a feel for it. The most important time is during rush hour to see traffic at its worst. The evening hours are great for catching neighbors out and about. I encourage buyers to talk to neighbors and ask questions.
There is a lot of information to be found online as well. Many people are curious about where they will go grocery shopping or where their kids will go to school. Some people want to know the crime levels of the immediate area or if there are any registered sex offenders living nearby. Here are a few nifty websites to help your neighborhood search-
This is the most basic place to start online. You can see what businesses, schools, and parks are nearby. You can even simulate walking down the street with Streetview. Roads owned by condo associations are considered private, so Streetview is usually not available for these types of properties.
The overhead parcel viewer for Kent County is a great way to see who owns neighboring lots and the public information for the parcels. Not every county has this available, but both Ottawa and Kent County have nice parcel viewers.
GreatSchools is the leading national nonprofit empowering parents to unlock educational opportunities for their children. They provide school information and parenting resources to help millions of American families choose the right school, support learning at home, and guide their children to great futures. GreatSchools provides test score rankings and reviews from local parents as well.
CityData is not the most user friendly of websites, but it is chock full of great information. You can research anything from income, education level, weather patterns, violent crime rates, among many other categories, for particular cities, counties, or neighborhoods.
Local governments can team up with CrimeMapping, so the information here is closest to the source and the most up-to-date. This breaks down specific crimes on an easy to use map. Not all municipalities use CrimeMapping, so this may not work with every location. It works great for the City of Grand Rapids.
Remember, there is a reason "location, location, location" is a famous real estate quote. Location for many people is the most important criteria in their home search. Be an educated buyer and research what is important to you. Ask your Realtor for resources. Help ensure you will be happy for the long term in your new home.
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