If you’re planning to move to a new city, you’ve got a lot of research to do. From cable providers and municipal services to the best coffee shops and healthcare offices, you will want to know everything there is to know about the new place. You may be wondering what’s the best way to scope out your new neighborhood without actually being able to be there.
Check out these six tips to help you use online resources in your research about your new city.
1. Look at Neighborhood Databases
There are many online databases that collect and analyze important information on every U.S. city. Try City-Data.com for profiles of cities with statistics such as cost of living and median income levels, or head to NeighborhoodScout which gives more detailed descriptions on demographics and characteristics. StreetAdvisor focuses on ranking neighborhoods and streets in terms of popularity, while Walk Score rates neighborhoods based on proximity to schools, stores, coffee shops, and parks, points out Moving.com.
2. Ask the City
Call city hall and ask about new resident resources, or check out the official city website to familiarize yourself with city happenings. Many cities offer online guides for visitors and residents, and city officials may be eager to give you info about setting up utilities or finding the best local Internet provider covering the area. Contact your local Chamber of Commerce as well for suggestions on the best businesses and restaurants in the area.
3. Find Out About the Commute
What will the commute length be here once you move? If you plan to drive yourself to work, enlist the help of Google Maps for a traffic overview, marked by accurate and efficient traffic estimates down to the hour. Rather take public transportation? Check the routes and schedules of the public transit system. They may have an online “Plan My Route” feature detailing how you can get from one place to another, such as bus transfers and train switches. Just remember, these will add to your commute time.
4. Check School Reviews
Schools are everything when it comes to location. Heck, even if you don’t have kids of your own yet or never want them, it’s wise to find a neighborhood with a strong school system — especially if you have plans to resell. GreatSchools is an independent nonprofit known for publishing helpful guides that rank local schools on a scale of 1-10. The rankings are based largely on standardized test scores, but sometimes college readiness and student outcome rates can also be found. Local residents can share their own reviews, so be sure to read up on those.
5. Research Crime Rates
Crime rates are vital statistics to learn about when you move to a new area. You’ll find that most city police departments publish this sort of information on their official websites. But if you can’t find them online, you can do a little research of your own and gather data over the phone. There are also many sites that share public crime data, such as CrimeReports, Family Watchdog, and SpotCrime. These online databases analyze local crime stats by type of crime and area. Take a look at SafeWise, which ranks the safest cities in the nation and in each state.
6. Browse User Forums
Locals tend to give the most honest feedback because they live here and want others to know the truth. That’s why online forums are the best sites to locate current residents or ask some questions you may have about the area. Head to the user forums at City-Data.com and city subreddit lists on Reddit. These are excellent places to start. Nextdoor is a private networking site where neighbors connect and chat, and is also a good resource for personal community responses.
Don’t forget the larger social media and review sites, including Instagram, Facebook, Yelp, and Google+. Read through posts from residents to gain insight into things that matter most to that particular community. Who knows, you may even make some new friends that share in your interests.
Sure, moving to a new city can be overwhelming, but by doing some research beforehand, you can calm your nerves and learn all you can about your future home. Soon enough, you yourself will be a local!