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Explore the neighborhood before you buy a home

Explore the neighborhood before you buy a home

When you're moving to a new neighborhood, the price of your new home isn't always the most important factor in your decision. Of course, you need to know how much money you'll need to live in your new city, and see if it matches the job you'll have.

However, the quality of life that your kids and you will have outweighs even that. Often, your No. 1 concern is: How good are the schools? Even if the elementary school is great, maybe the middle schools and high schools aren't up to your standards. How can you tell?

The National Association of Realtors, an association for real estate agents, has an extremely useful site that can help you find your next home and your next neighborhood. It's called Realtor.com (Realtor.org is the site for real-estate agents). There's also an app for doing research on the go.

On the homepage, type in the city where you're moving; then For Sale or For Rent. Realtor.com will show you photographs of homes in that area.

To see a list of public schools in that neighborhood and in neighboring school districts, click on a home, then the Schools & Neighborhood tab. Realtor.com lists the schools, and ranks the quality of those schools on a 1-10 rating.

Realtor.com is also a great place to keep an eye on the value of your home. To find your home value, just type in your home address; choose Property Records. It'll pull up an overview of your home, starting with its estimated value.

That information can come in handy for you when you're making decisions such as refinancing your current mortgage. It's also helpful if you're moving, but you're not sure if should sell your current home or rent it out.

On this comprehensive site, you will see photographs of homes in your neighborhood, along with the price that home buyers paid for them. To do that, choose the tab Recently Sold. You can also find your home's sales history, with dates it was sold and prices it sold for, along with taxes paid.

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