When it comes to buying or building a new home, the “where” of it all is one of the most important decisions to make. 

Sure, square footage, number of bedrooms, and bathrooms are important, but location and neighborhood is arguable at the top of the list. You can change pretty much anything about a home…except location. 

Your neighborhood is more than just a zip code, it’s where you’ll be spending most of your time, putting down roots, and becoming part of a community, so you’ll want to make sure it’s an area that’s a good fit for your family. While it might seem like you can’t ever really know a neighborhood until you live there, there is a lot you can do to assess a potential neighborhood before committing. Read on for some of the things you can do to find a safe, family-friendly neighborhood for your new home.

Take a virtual tour.

Before you pack your bags and move to a new area, head online for a quick virtual tour. Google Street View will let you click your way down the street and surrounding area so you can see for yourself what the area’s like.

READ: See Why Greenburgh Ranks as One of the Best Places to Live in New York

Check out the local schools.

Family-friendly neighborhoods will almost always have good schools nearby, so if you’re working to narrow down your list of potential towns and neighborhoods, consider filtering by the schools in the area. Our Home Value Reports are a great place to start your research—they offer a snapshot of local schools and their ratings. 

Consider crime rates.

When it comes to your family, a safe neighborhood is a top priority. There are many public resources available that track crime rates, but be careful not to pain an entire city with the same brush: violent crime often takes place in very localized pockets within much larger areas. In fact, one study found that almost half of all crime complaints and gun violence took place in only 5% of street segments. Be sure to dial into your specific neighborhood for a more accurate view. 

There are many tools available that can help you track crime in a specific area. Sites like SpotCrime and CityProtect collect police report information and break down the type of crime and date. Other resources, like AreaVibes, map crime and assigns a neighborhood safety rating based on several factors. And of course, user-driven platforms like Nextdoor and Citizen can be a good resource as well. 

Look at local even calendars and recreational programs.

A calendar of local events are a great way to get a sense of the community and how much it caters to kids and families. Libraries and community centers usually post event calendars online, and if a town offers a lot of recreational activities for kids and families, and is home to many reputable daycare centers and preschool programs, it likely means there’s a strong family presence as well. 

Visit in person.

Doing research is a great first step, but before you make your final decision, try to visit the area first. Seeing the neighborhood for yourself can tell you a lot more than simply reading about it. While you’re out touring the neighborhood, check out the yards. Family-friendly neighborhoods are already home to families, so look for signs of children: toys, bikes, sidewalk chalk—all signs that kids are present. 

Stop and chat with locals. What better way to learn about the area than by talking to the people who already live there? Stroll around the area on the weekend when future-neighbors may be out and about, and open a dialogue. 

While you’re in the area, consider what amenities are nearby. Does the neighborhood have access to good parks, playgrounds, hiking trails, or other outdoor recreational areas? What about libraries, pools, a community center? 

Neighborhood research takes time and effort, but it’s  worth doing. Take the time to ensure that the place you’re setting up is ideal for your family’s needs, the kind of place you’ll be happy to call home.

Let's find  the town for your new home. Get started today.

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