“So what’s the neighborhood really like?” is the invariable secret sauce sought by home shoppers in areas they’re unfamiliar with. And though your local real estate agent is your best resource, it pays to do some research to narrow your search for a home purchase.
If you’re relocating from outside of Austin, or anywhere else, and not able to skulk around the streets in person for intel—subject to dubious looks or worse—there are some far easier ways to get a feel for what living in a neighborhood is really like. Best of all, you can even do them remotely. For starters, you can get local information on various neighborhoods on realtor.com’s site. Then for more juicy details, dip into the resources below.
For a bird’s-eye view…
Everyone loves to start with maps. Most maps show only a two-dimensional rendering though. Topographical maps, which add the third dimension of elevation, show the surface and physical features of a given neighborhood better than Google Maps. Besides highlighting the Hill Country of central Texas and its valleys, seeing the literal lay of the land is a leg up when it comes to weather events (read: is it in a flood plain?!).
You can then zoom in on specific Austin neighborhoods and subdivisions with a plethora of other info. on MapsofAustin’s highly-graphical, colorful, online, interactive maps. Simply fabulous.
For a peek behind the curtain…
NeighborhoodScout touts “investor-grade insights for any location”. Type any address into and its proprietary search algorithm provides a ton of data— home style, prices, etc., whether the neighborhood is hip and trendy or urban sophisticated; people per square mile; percentage of renters; crime rates; ease of commute—in one neat snapshot.
Also, the site tells you what makes it noteworthy or unique. For instance, you may learn that a certain area has a high percentage of small bungalows, or LGBT families, or homeowners who were born in another country.
Plug in your present address to “find your twin” town throughout the country. Select filters that take into account your lifestyle preferences—whether family-friendly or suitable for first-time home buyers for instance.
The The U.S Census Bureau’s maps also offer a graphic overview of select demographics.
For School Ratings …
Don’t rely on bias from a Seller when it comes to your child’s education. Instead, go to the nonprofit Greatschools.org and type in a potential ZIP code. You’ll have a chance to read school report cards crafted by reviews from teachers, parents, and even the students themselves. Or, if you already know which school district you want your child to attend in Austin, go here —you can search on our site for homes by school district. FYI, all charter and magnet schools in the Austin Independent School District are public. Click here for a list of all the Austin area school websites.
For Getting Around…
Since “walkability” is such a buzzword in Austin, especially among millennials, of course there’s a site devoted to showing you how easy it is to get around on foot. How easily you can you hoof it to a cafe, grocery store, or park gets crunched into one overall rating called the Walk Score. If you’d rather spin your way around, then Bike Score gives you a neighborhood’s bike-friendliness from the amount of its bike lanes and trails. GREAT GRAPHICS
What’s maybe even cooler…the free walking app Walc shows you what you’ll actually see on a neighborhood stroll, rather than the nondescript compass directions used for other directional apps. Simply enter an address into Walc, add a destination, and mosey through a neighborhood– without ever stepping foot on the pavement. You’ll get a sense of place from the landmarks that pop up: Do you turn right at a coffee shop or a BBQ joint?
Though Austin hasn’t aced the mass transportation game, there is a corridor that may be desirous to some when house hunting. To check out any area’s accessibility to trains, buses, and light rail, researching the Transit Score. Then there’s the ride sharing thing… don’t get Austinites started about the recent debacle that sent Uber and Lyft bye-bye and us in the exhaust. But, such as it is, there are alternatives.
For Crime Rates…
To see how safe it would be to set foot outside your new potential home, enter an address into My Local Crime to pull up any recent local crimes from A to Z. Click on the map function to see where exactly those crimes were committed (in other words, maybe certain blocks to avoid after dark?). Realtor’s in Austin rely on Krimelabb.
So, what about entertainment, culture and nightlife you say? Here’s Austin’s go-to list:
365 Things Austin is famous for its hyperlink calendar
The Austinot is a cool, hyperlocal blog about the city of Austin and the surrounding area
If Austin is on you radar after you do your virtual reconnaissance, we would be privileged to tour you around town in person. Contact us to set it up!