I still remember the last time I moved into a new neighbourhood. Busy with paperwork, inspections and harsh competition, I almost forgot to check one of the most critical aspects of moving house. Safety.
Thankfully I did some research before I moved and these are some of the methods I found to learn about a new area.
Check the Crime Stats
Crime statistics are always a great place to start. Most countries provide free government statistics on the crimes committed segmented by area and postcode. No area will be crime free, however, it’s important to find a neighbourhood where no serious crime is prominent. For UK click here, AU click here, for US you need to search by state.
Google the Area
Try googling your prospective area and searching under “news.” Here you will be able to see the most high profile events in the area. This is a great second step in your research as it allows you to dig into specifics and identify problem zones within a suburb. For instance, you might find one street in the suburb is frequented by snatch and grab thieves. Knowing this, you can avoid that area.
Check the Surrounds
Bordering suburbs can have a huge impact on your quality of life in an area. You may find that your suburb is the only safe zone surrounded by crime ridden areas. Or perhaps there is a correctional facility located a mere 20mins drive from your new home. All these factors should be considered before making the leap. I suggest repeating steps 1-2 for the neighbouring suburbs as well. Also consider the rail network in your area, as homes close to public transport can be more prone to crime.
Look at the Reputation of Schools
A largely overlooked statistic but the reputation of nearby schools can tell you a lot about the residents in the area. A simple Google search can tell you a lot about the school. Is the school public or private? What level of security exists and why? Does the school have a reputation for good grades? Do kids pass by your home on their way to the school? If finding information is hard, drive down and speak to the principal. This point is especially important if you have or are planning to have children.
Talk to shopkeepers
The shopkeepers in the area spend 8 hours or more speaking to locals. All day, every day. They are perhaps the best qualified to give you an idea of the dynamics and crime rates in the area. Walk around to local shops, buy some supplies and strike up a conversation.
Tell them you’re planning to move to the area and ask if they have any information to share. You would be surprised how friendly and conversational people are when approached nicely. If multiple employees respond in a negative or unfriendly way, you may want to reconsider your choice. If you move, these will become your local stores.
No research can substitute first hand experience. Spend as much of your spare time in the area as you can afford. Go to dinner, take the kids to the local park and drive around at night. Try to see the area at different times on weekends and weekdays. Replicating your future lifestyle before you move will help ensure there are no nasty surprises when you finally make the leap.
Look for Warning Signs
If it looks to good to be true it usually is. If you see a property that is far too cheap for the market, don’t assume you’re getting a good deal. Ask for details. If you come across suspicious behaviour or suspect gang activity, find another place. Keep your eyes and ears open while exploring the new area.
- Always check crime statistics
- Google the area for news
- Check the surrounding suburbs
- Look at the reputation of schools
- Talk to shopkeepers and locals
- Walk/ Drive around the area
- Keep your eyes open for warning signs