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What’s Going on in the Neighborhood?

Many homeowners choose a home based on budget, location, school district, or architecture, but often overlook the opportunity to learn about the neighborhood where their property is located. Whether you’re settled in for the long haul and are just curious, or you’re considering moving again, here are resources to help you swiftly find out about your neighborhood—or a neighborhood that interests you.

Overall perspective on a neighborhood
Terabitz (www.terabitz.com), a Web portal for neighborhood researchers, lets consumers create a free “dashboard” of data from multiple sources—educational records, census data, crime statistics, as well as “fun” information about local services such as restaurants, coffee shops, and links to local blogs. Intelius (www.intelius.com) offers background search data on properties (including crime and neighborhood stats) as well as people, but charges a fee.

Crime data
How safe is the neighborhood and what sort of crimes happen there? To find out, check your local police department’s Web site. Most local police department Web sites offer links to crime data as well as names, photos and general locations of registered sex offenders within a given part of town and information on Block Watch programs run by citizens. Local police precincts will share so-called “incident reports”—a list of recent crimes in the area—with walk-in visitors, and these reports are often summarized in “police blotter” columns in small community papers. To look for police departments in your area, use a general Web search or search via police site CopSeek (www.copseek.com ).

Education
Check individual school districts’ Web sites as well as local newspapers which frequently offer year-round resources on schools’ performance. Terabitz.com offers local educational statistics, and local districts ought to offer information about test score data, student population size data, classroom sizes, after-school activity options, and more.

Home value data and trends
Depending on your city, county, and state of residence, the office of your local assessor may offer online data about a property’s history, including current and past owner, and prices and taxes paid for a property in recent transactions. Zillow.com offers similar data, plus graphs and charts about area appreciation, and Realestateabc.com offers home value quotes.

Traffic
For construction projects that could effect your commute, check your state Department of Transportation as well as local transportation information online.  To find links to state department of transportation Web sites, check for your state’s link from the Federal Highway Administration site here: http://www.fhwa.dot.gov/webstate.htm

Neighborhood traits
Claritas (www.claritas.com), a marketing company, offers a service called “You are where you live” that describes which among 66 different demographic personality types are most common in a zip code, including categories such as “Money & Brains,” “Young Digerati” and “Urban Elders”. Visit the site’s “Free resources” section, then “lifestyles.”