An old college friend of mine and I were chatting recently about her desire to move her family of four out of Florida to somewhere with cooler weather. She had done hours and hours of online research to narrow it down to a few cities, and then to a few neighborhoods within those cities. What was most interesting to me was HOW she did it, what tools she used, and at what point she would decide to contact a real estate agent.
Her path is probably reflective of that of a computer-savvy Gen X’er, but I know there are countless ways to look. To find the kind of city she wanted to move to, she checked out:
- City Data – to find out generic statistical information about different cities and zip codes. Other interesting items on the site include their Top 101 lists and the discussion forums, as well as strange little factoids like “62,9% of Charleston County residents drank alcohol in the past 30 days which is more than average.”
- Neighborhood Scout – for crime information, public school rankings and home appreciation rates as well as popular neighborhoods within each city.
Once she figured out a neighborhood, she took a deeper dive into the houses there by using:
- Google Real Estate Search – I agree with her in that this is one of the best search engines, particularly if you want to use a map-based search. It will lead you to different random real estate sites – but usually all the photos and information are there. The best way to get to it is to go to Google Maps, and then to the right of the search bar you’ll see a ‘search options’ menu. Drop it down and select real estate then click Search! Realtor.com and a few other sites have a map-based search as well.
- Google Street View – this is not a separate site, but rather a tool you can use from within Google Maps. It is great to be able to see what the houses and streets look like. I actually ‘drove’ a client of mine through a neighborhood using this tool and she was 400 miles away.
- WalkScore – it is very important to my friend that her new house have a WalkScore of 60 or above so as soon as she found a house she liked, she’d type the address in and voila, she could see the score and what was near it.
To get a sense of the local culture, and how its citizens felt about where they lived, she read blogs and looked at photo journals. Most of those can be found but just doing a Google Search to see what comes up.
And then, after all these fun hours of exploration and research, then and only then, would she look for a real estate agent she might like, depending on who appeared to know the most about the neighborhoods she liked. Pretty interesting huh?
So how do you search?