Updated: Jun 23
Aerial view of Lexington, Massachusetts
Where you decide to live is one of the most exciting yet consequential decisions you'll ever make for yourself and your family. Everybody has different preferences and needs, and surely there's a fantastic neighborhood out there waiting for you to call it home. But before you make your move, you want to be certain that it's a good fit for you. Here are our Top 10 Resources to help you investigate a place before you relocate!
Niche.com is the place to go for the insider scoop on a town. You can search for towns or neighborhoods to find an “Overall Niche Grade” from A to F. You’ll also find maps, population data, reviews from real residents, and grades for housing, schools, nightlife, etc. This is also a fantastic resource for browsing universities, school districts, and specific neighborhoods. To search for towns, go to niche.com and find the search bar at the top. In the first box, type in what you want to find (i.e., “town,” “neighborhood,” or school district”), and then the name of what you are looking for. If you prefer browsing, there are plenty of curated lists you can explore; e.g., Best Places to Buy A House in the Hartford Area, or Places with the Best Public Schools in the Boston Area
If a small or mid-sized city is your vibe, check out Livability.com's annual list of "Top 100 Best Places to Live in the US." They focus on cities with populations between 75,000 - 500,000 which are, according to their site, "the crowd-pleasing, best places to live that leave you with money left over after paying your rent or mortgage." You can filter their Top Cities by region, population size, and median home value; and you can sort by categories such as environment, public transportation, and amenities.
3. Area Vibes
Similarly to Niche, AreaVibes.com ranks town and cities based on votes from residents. They use a 1 - 100 scale for an overall score as well as scores and information on amenities, cost of living, walkability, and more. Plus, they share real estate listings so you can get a general feel of what the housing market is like.
The New York Times created a database of cities and towns across the country that is very helpful if you're looking to narrow down a town to live in. You can sort by region and price range, and then use the checkboxes on the left hand side to search towns and cities based on interests, population, climate, etc. Click here to get started on your search!
5. Walk Score
If getting around easily without a car is high on your priority list, be sure to go over to WalkScore.com and plug in the neighborhood or specific address you're looking at. This site conveniently ranks spots based on their access to public transportation, bike paths, and walkability, and allows you to lookup commute times and routes to your workplace, local grocery stores, parks, etc.
6. Crime Grade
One of home buyer's top concerns when moving to a new neighborhood is how safe the area is. Crime statistics are notoriously unreliable for many reasons, and there's no absolute guarantee of safety anywhere you live, so take any stats you see with a grain of salt. With that said, you still may want to investigate available crime data in your target zip code. There are many Crime Statistic sites available. One example is CrimeGrade.org, which compiles data from local police departments, the FBI, Best Neighborhood, and other sources to project violent, property, and overall crime rates. You can plug in a zip code you're considering, and then load an interactive map that you can explore.
7. Social Media
Social Media has connected the world like never before, and it’s an essential tool if you want to get to know an area before moving there. Try a few of the following:
Most towns have a Town Forum group on Facebook where residents share about local events and issues. It’s a great way to get insight into the day-to-day happenings in the town and a feel of the local residents. In the search bar, type in “[town/neighborhood] [state]” and then “forum” or “residents;” i.e., “Bedford, MA forum.” A lot of local groups are private and controlled by moderators, but you may be able to join anyways if you let them know you are looking to move to the area and want to get to know the town!
Try using the search bar to search “[town/neighborhood], [state]”; i.e., “Lexington, Massachusetts.” When the search results come up, click on the results with map pin or hashtag icons. You’ll be able to see posts that were geotagged or tagged (respectively) in that location. You might find local small businesses, scenic views, town events, etc. Have fun exploring!
If you really want to jump down the rabbit hole, you might be able to find a Reddit community on your town. Beware... Reddit isn't known for its' positivity - or objectivity - so take what you find with a grain of salt and try not to make assumptions before getting to know the town and its' residents in other ways.
8. Trip Advisor
Of course, you're not looking for somewhere to vacation - you're looking for somewhere to live. But taking time to browse Trip Advisor's attractions, trails, museums, restaurants, recommendations, and reviews, is sure to give you a glimpse of the local flavors and history.
9. Google Maps
This one may seem obvious - of course you would look up your target neighborhood on a map! But are you using all the features? Immerse yourself in exploring a neighborhood from a street view, figure out how bad the local traffic can really get on your specific commuting route, find accessible public transportation timetables, and read reviews of local parks, shops, and restaurants. Check out this article for instructions on getting the most out of Google Maps.
10. A Trusted Realtor®
Beyond providing you with invaluable guidance, showing you around an area, and giving you insight into various regions and neighborhoods, your Realtor® can also share vital home value and appreciation statistics, helping you be confident that the place you’re choosing to live is a good investment for your future.
When you're ready to start searching for homes anywhere, make us your first call and we can help guide you to the right place to call home!