How to Research a Neighborhood

Before you spend thousands of dollars on a new home, why not spend a few hours researching the neighborhood where the property is located? Checking out the area is part of your due diligence, costs nothing and could save you a fortune in the long run.

Online tools for geographic and demographic research abound, but beware of Internet scams that lure you in with a tiny bit of free data and then demand payment for “research reports” of dubious quality. Everything you really need to know can be had for free, almost all of it from one source that you’ve already paid for (courtesy of the U.S. tax system).

The U.S. Census Bureau does it all

The United States Census Bureau has been compiling statistics for more than a century, and it’s not just about population figures. The organization’s website is a treasure trove for anyone in the process of shopping for a home. A sub-sub-category of the U.S. Census site is called “American Fact Finder,” is where you can discover a wealth of relevant data about the zip code in which you wish to purchase a home.

“Drawing a picture” of a neighborhood

Especially helpful for those moving from one region of the country to another, the tool offers up stats about average income, age, the business environment, employment and dozens of other tidbits that help you draw a picture of a neighborhood you’re interested in.

There are plenty of helpful statistics in the American Fact Finder section of the Census Bureau’s website. For any given ZIP code, city, state, county or township, you can read detailed information about:

  • Age, gender and marital status
  •  Income and employment statistics
  •  Health insurance coverage rates
  •  How many people commute to their jobs
  •  Extremely detailed data about local businesses, their payroll, number of employees and industry niche
  •  Education levels and languages spoken

When it’s time to buy a home, do yourself a favor by visiting the Census Bureau’s website and learning whatever you can about the neighborhood in question. When it comes to real estate purchases, arm yourself with as much data as possible. That way, you’ll never be in the dark about the geographic areas where you shop for homes.









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