Buying or building a home is one of the biggest investments you can make in your lifetime. With the average home in the United States costing around $240,000, it is more important than ever to choose wisely the neighborhood where you purchase or build a home, as you’ll want to be happy with your investment.
Nothing affects the value and enjoyment of a home as much as the surrounding area. If your neighborhood is not safe, you and your family will live in fear and you may be unable to sell the home without suffering a financial loss.
Here are the top five ways to know if a potential neighborhood is safe.
1. Use a crime mapping service.
CrimeReports and SpotCrime are two services that collect police and crime reports. Enter the address where you plan to buy or build, and these two services will display a list of the crimes committed in the vicinity, complete with a breakdown of the dates and type of crimes. You can compare potential neighborhoods with these tools to see which ones have the lowest crime rates.
2. Check the National Sex Offender Public Website.
The United States Department of Justice maintains a database of convicted sex offenders. The U.S. Department of Justice National Sex Offender Public Website (NSOPW) is a valuable tool in determining the relative safety of a potential neighborhood. Like more general crime mapping services, the NSOPW allows you to enter an address to see how many sex offenders live nearby.
3. Check out the number of homes for sale in the area.
The number of homes for sale in a neighborhood can be an indication of its overall safety. In some cases, a large number of homes on the market may be a result of residents leaving a neighborhood to escape rising crime. Even if the number of homes for sale is because of other reasons, such as a downturn in market, vacant homes often attract an unsavory element. Drug production, prostitution and gangs are just a few of the criminal elements that vacant homes attract.
4. Tour the neighborhood and look at the conditions.
Even if a neighborhood is well populated, the general state of repair can say much about its overall safety. A safe neighborhood is usually well kept, with residents who look after the neighborhood, each other and take pride in their surroundings. When touring a potential neighborhood, take note of broken windows, overgrown yards, run-down homes and fences. While most neighborhoods may have one or two unsightly homes, a large number could signal an unsafe environment.
5. Talk to people already in the area.
Few methods are as effective as a simple conversation. Take a moment to introduce yourself to potential neighbors and ask for their opinion on the neighborhood. Ask if it is a place they would recommend for you and your family, and if they have any concerns about safety.
What other safety advice do you have for people looking to move to a new area?