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8 Ways To Test-Drive a Neighborhood While Sheltering in Place

April 21, 2020

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When you’re in the market for a new place to live, finding the right neighborhood is everything. But in our current state, with shelter-in-place orders in full effect in many areas (and mere common sense limiting people’s excursions), scoping out a new neighborhood can be a little more challenging. But with some online detective work and the right tools, you can learn a lot about a neighborhood without leaving your home.

That’s because you’re not the first one to consider buying a home without being able to pound the pavement personally.

“As buyer’s agents, we will often shoot video of the neighborhood and/or home for our out-of-area clients,” says Katie Wethman, a real estate agent with the Wethman Group at Keller Williams in McLean, VA. “We also have video streaming apps like FaceTime, Skype, and Zoom to bring them with us.”

Even though you won’t be able to pop in to a local coffee shop or take a leisurely stroll down Main Street, exploring a neighborhood in the time of coronavirus is possible. So let your fingers do the walking—on your laptop—and get to digging. Here’s how to start your research.

1. Check out neighborhood publications and local social media

An active neighborhood community will sometimes have a print publication or local social media groups that connect residents. These can provide information on local events and activities that will give you a better feel for the neighborhood. For example, Carlsbad, CA, has a local publication called Carlsbad Magazine, which covers all of the cultural happenings in North San Diego County, as well as a Facebook page.

Browse Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for groups or accounts that document what’s going on in the neighborhood where you’re interested in moving. You can even interact with locals in the community who can give you their opinions of their locale.

2. Take a walk with Google

Want to take a stroll around your potential new neighborhood without leaving the couch?

“Google Street View is a great way to ‘walk’ the street and neighborhood virtually,” says Wethman.

Every listing on realtor.com features a link to the Google Street View for that address.

realtor.com street view
Take a look at the Google Street View on realtor.com.

realtor.com

Another way to access Google Street View is to go to google.com/maps, type in the address of the house you’re interested in, and click on the photo of the property in the menu to the left of the map. If Google Street View is available for that address, you should be able to click and drag the image to move down the street.

“Search engines like Google also let you filter for videos when you search the neighborhood name,” says Wethman. “Try adding ‘review’ to your search terms, and also ‘neighborhood association’ or ‘homeowners association’ for better results.”

3. Browse websites with neighborhood data

You want to gather as much information as possible on your next neighborhood, and there are a lot of websites that can help you do that.

City-Data provides detailed city profiles about everything from cost of living to weather to average home prices, and its forums give useful insight from community locals.

Plug in your ZIP code at AreaVibes to get a livability score and help narrow down the best places to live.

Yelp provides not only reviews on local cafes, restaurants, and nightlife, but also unfiltered reviews from local residents.

4. Search other real estate listings

To learn about the typical architectural styles and ages of homes in a neighborhood, browse online listings on sites like realtor.com. Is the neighborhood full of ’50s ranch homes or hundred-year-old Victorians? Looking at the homes for sale will clue you in.

5. Call a real estate agent

It’s also a good idea to get in touch with a tech-savvy real estate agent—and these days, that’s most of them.

“A real estate agent can help by using technology to test-drive the neighborhood for you. This can easily be done by making a video of the neighborhood and sharing it with you,” says John Myers, a real estate agent with Myers & Myers Real Estate in Albuquerque, NM.

Myers says he has helped a lady from New York City purchase a home in Albuquerque by using a video calling app called Duo.

If you’ve identified a home you’re interested in, contact the listing agent for more information about the neighborhood. The pro will be sure to have an insider’s perspective on the area and extensive knowledge on homes there.

6. Investigate schools and educational data

Relocating with your family? Then you will want to research schools in the area. A good resource is GreatSchools, which provides data on K-12 schools and reviews from parents. Areas with great schools typically maintain property values, and its neighborhoods are highly coveted.

And if you want to research education statistics, U.S. News & World Report has rankings of high schools with data on more than 23,000 public high schools in all 50 states.

7. Check crime rates

Safety is a priority for both buyers and renters, and crime rates can give you a picture of how safe or dangerous a neighborhood is. Low crime rates are not only safer but can also help keep property values high.

Websites such as CrimeReports can provide crime data from law enforcement agencies.

To see if there are registered sex offenders living nearby, type the address of your potential new home in the National Sex Offender Registry’s online search tool.

8. Plan your daily commute

Wethman also suggests getting a feel for the neighborhood by monitoring traffic and your potential work commute.

“I recommend people ‘test-drive’ the commute using commuting tools that predict traffic like Waze or Google Maps,” says Wethman.

These tools will predict the level of traffic during your commute hours and give you an idea of how long it’ll take to get to work. Realtor.com also offers a similar commute time feature on every home listing.

The post 8 Ways To Test-Drive a Neighborhood While Sheltering in Place appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights | realtor.com®.

The New Rules of Neighborly Etiquette: Do You Know Them All?

December 31, 2018

neighbors at door

istock/fstop123

Neighborhoods just aren’t the same as they used to be.

Gone are the days when everyone on your street knows you and waves when you pass one another by. One recent study by the City Observatory found that only about one-third of homeowners know their neighbors by name! That’s a huge change from generations past, and it’s altered the unspoken rules of neighborly etiquette.

Whether you’re the new kid on the block or you’ve been at the same address for 20 years, there are certain etiquette rules you’re expected to follow to keep the peace in your hood, and those rules are evolving just as quickly as the world we live in. We spoke to experts to find out exactly what those rules are today, so we can strive to be the perfect neighbors we wish we had.

Old rule: Just pop by and knock!

New rule: Try texting first

Many of the changes in the way that we interact with our neighbors are due to advancements in technology.

“The technology that was created to connect us has left many ever more [physically] disconnected,” says Sophie Kaemmerle, a neighborhood expert from NeighborWho. “There is a tendency for many of us to turn inward and live in a digital neighborhood, instead of interacting with the people around us.”

The upshot? People just don’t show up unexpectedly at your door anymore—if you do, there’s a good chance you’ll catch your neighbors off guard.

Instead, “Sending people a message to say that you would like to swing by, rather than just showing up unannounced, is appropriate,” says Kaemmerle. “A text saying you have something to drop off and ‘Is now a good time?’ allows the other person to make sure they have pants on before you ring the doorbell!”

Old rule: Kids can still drop by to ask if your tykes can play

New rule: Kids have busy schedules, so texting applies here, too

So maybe we adults should consider texting before dropping by, but surely it’s OK for phone-less kids to drop by unannounced and ask for the children of the house to come out and play, right? Not so fast, says Kaemmerle.

“It’s best to use technology to plan play dates for your kids, by emailing or texting other parents rather than letting your kids simply show up and knock,” she explains. “Kids these days have a lot of extracurricular activities, and unless you know the other family really well, you probably don’t have an inkling about their schedule. It’s courteous to be mindful of those busy schedules by planning play dates in advance.”

Old rule: Neighborhood watch keeps us all safe

New rule: Limit your video surveillance to your own property

As crime rates go up and the cost of video equipment goes down, it’s not uncommon to see video cameras pop up on houses on your street. In fact, around 20% of all Americans aged 18 to 49 use video surveillance in their homes.

If you decide to take the plunge and install your own, where exactly should those cameras be pointing? Is it a big deal if your front porch camera also happens to be recording your neighbor’s front yard?

Experts agree that is a very, very big deal.

“For reasons of privacy, I would encourage property owners to limit the scope of all videotaping to the boundary of their own property,” explains etiquette and manners expert Sharon Schweitzer, who is also an attorney.

She adds that you should double-check by watching your video to make sure you’re not accidentally recording beyond your own property lines.

It’s not always possible to keep the camera on your own property, especially if you have a small lot, or are recording something close to the edge of your property.

“If you are recording anything beyond your property line, it is best to communicate with your neighbors and check with an attorney,” advises etiquette consultant Jodi RR Smith. “Different states have different right-to-privacy and recording laws.”

Old rule: Face-to-face interactions are best

New rule: Being Facebook friends is fine, too

While every etiquette expert we spoke with confirmed that you are under no obligation to befriend your neighbors on Facebook or other social media sites, Kaemmerle says there are good ways to connect with your neighbors online—especially if you’re not apt to do it face to face. In fact, doing so may be the key to forging the connections that have been lost over the years—and to keeping up with what’s happening in your area.

“While technology might have started the trend toward fewer interactions with your neighbors, it can also be the key to changing that trend,” she says. “There are digital platforms now that are designed specifically to create neighborliness.”

Kaemmerle suggests searching Facebook for groups specific to your city, town, or neighborhood. She also advises trying the app Nextdoor, which uses your address to automatically connect you to private message boards used only by those living in your area. By using these sites, you can pitch in when there’s a lost cat, stay in the loop if there’s suspicious activity in the area, and even keep up to date on things like yard waste collection.

Old rule: Swap keys with a neighbor you trust in case of emergencies

New rule: Swap alarm codes and other electronic passwords, too

You can’t be home 100% of the time, so it’s always good to have one neighbor you trust have access to your house in case of emergencies. In the past, that boiled down to a key swap. Today, it could include everything from security alarm codes to garage door passwords—whatever they’d need to keep your place safe.

“If you trust your neighbor and vice versa, share alarm codes, garage codes, and home electronics instructions, in case you ever need to assist while they’re away,” explains Schweitzer. “For example, if your neighbor’s garage door is open or they are away during a freeze and the heat needs to be turned on, you’ll be prepared to be a helpful neighbor.”

Old rule: Construction on your property is your business alone

New rule: Alert neighbors to any construction plans that might make noise

Construction projects aren’t just hard on you—they’re also hard on your whole neighborhood. The noise, the dirt, and the added traffic are enough to drive anyone nuts, so be considerate of your neighbors when you have a project going on.

“If you’re doing construction, send an email or written note to all neighbors with your contact info, in case there are any issues with the contractors if you’re not around,” advises etiquette expert Lisa Grotts.

After the project is over, invite everyone over for libations as a thank-you for putting up with the ruckus—and forging stronger neighborhood bonds. (The old-fashioned custom of sharing a drink face to face works just as well now as ever!)

The post The New Rules of Neighborly Etiquette: Do You Know Them All? appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights | realtor.com®.