Moving to a new neighborhood brings with it a long list of questions. What are the neighbors like? Are there kids in the area? It is safe? What are the best places to shop?
Once you’ve made the decision to relocate, these questions and more are bound to arise. Many questions can be answered by your Realtor or your contractor, but information on others may be less forthcoming. As realtors are bound by an oath that upholds fair housing and non-discriminatory practices, there are certain questions they just cannot answer. So, issues like churches in the area or the demographics of your neighbors are simply off-limits.
The Fair Housing Act: why your Realtor can’t always tell you what you want to know
What a Realtor can and cannot disclose is dictated by the Fair Housing Act and is meant to protect the rights of both home buyers and renters. It prohibits discrimination due to ethnicity, nationality, family status, gender, disability, religion, race, and prevents any information on any of these classes from being directly divulged.
Realtors and builders are cautious about the way they word answers around these topics as well, as the restrictions they are under have a relatively loose interpretation. Additionally, they are often subject to solicitation by HUD testers who might be out in the field attempting to solicit a discriminatory response.
Where can you go to get answers?
Even though your Realtor or builder won’t answer your questions specifically, they can still point you in the right direction. They might send you a link to a community directory or tell you about the school district in general as well as letting you know where you can find the school rankings.
Not long ago, it may have been suggested that you check the local yellow pages for the information you're looking for, but today, there are plenty of sites on the internet that will give you a good overview of the city and its neighborhoods in great detail.
Some of these sites include:
NeighborhoodScout: Originally designed for investors, this site is a great tool for discovering details about your new location.
CityData: Detailed data on demographics, population, home values, school ratings, median salaries, amenities, and even the location of registered sex offenders.
BestPlaces: Gives you the lowdown on crime, cost of living, climate, average home values, and more.
GreatSchools: This site will help you get a handle on choosing the right schools for your kids from K-12 and beyond.
Local police agencies generally have statistical crime information posted on their websites. You can also try the US Census Bureau.
Go straight to the source
If you would prefer to hear it from the horse’s mouth, what better way to discover what’s going on in your backyard than by engaging the people that live there? Talk to people on the street and get a feel for what they think. Drive through the neighborhood at different times of day to see what the general climate is like – do the residents interact? Or do they tend to keep to themselves?
Once you’ve settled in, you can connect with your new neighborhood through community groups and social media. Nextdoor is a social network specifically designed for neighborhoods. If you discover a community organization, they may also have a Facebook group page. These groups are where you’ll find information not often shared in more public forums, such as petty crime, lost pets or other local concerns.
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