Safe and happy residents are a direct result of their neighborhoods. Relaxing and watching your children play outdoors is much more attainable if you feel secure doing so in your neighborhood. Closed doors and windows are a typical response to feeling insecure in your community.
Given the importance of feeling safe, finding the right place for you and your loved ones is crucial. That said, it’s not always easy to determine whether the neighborhood you’re interested in settling down in is secure or not.
What Is A “Bad” Neighborhood?
A concentrated number of unhoused people, high unemployment rates, haphazard trash pickup services, and abandoned houses are only some telltale signs of a less-than-desirable community.
Research shows that the mental and physical health of those who reside in hard-to-live areas is significantly impacted by factors such as excessive noise, graffiti, and the prevalence of crime. One perfect solution would be for people in bad areas to relocate instantly to safe neighborhoods
. But that’s not a reasonable reality for many people.
How To Tell If A Neighborhood Is Bad
If you don’t have any dependents and are strong-willed, living in a bad neighborhood may not be a big deal, but if you do, you should look elsewhere. Buying a house in a declining neighborhood might be a terrible financial decision because of the potential decrease in the value of your property.
Having a well-maintained vehicle or home might make you a target for vandalism and break-ins in a dilapidated neighborhood. Don’t worry, however; there are plenty of telltale signs that indicate whether or not a specific area is safe and desirable.
Research The Neighborhood Online
There is a correlation between school quality and home values
. A child’s academic success mirrors their quality of life. When kids in the area attend schools with high standards of academic achievement, it’s a sign that the community as a whole supports early childhood development.
Use a site like GreatSchools
to check if schools in any given neighborhood are good.
If you’re moving to a new area, finding out how safe it is is essential. There may be cause for concern about the neighborhood’s current and potential future worth if the local media and police report high crime statistics.
The U.S. Department of Justice keeps a registry of sexually violent felons. The National Sex Offender Public Website (NSOPW)
, maintained by the United States Department of Justice, is a helpful resource for gauging a community’s level of safety. The NSOPW works similarly to other crime mapping systems
in that it lets you input a location to find out how many sex offenders are in the immediate area.
Housing Price History
One way to know whether a neighborhood is bad or not is whether there has been a decline in property prices in the area despite an increase in the city as a whole.
Use Zillow and other online real estate portals to keep tabs on the monthly estimate and annual trend of the value of the home that you’re eyeing. Unless the community is experiencing a well-documented rapid downturn, dropping property prices is a major red flag.
You can also check neighborhood safety through your local MLS, including previous property prices. Even if housing costs have increased everywhere in recent years, you may check if a neighborhood appreciates by comparing its growth rate to other nearby areas.
Community Pages and Reviews
A quick Google search of a neighborhood will show you if there is a community page or threads on popular forum sites talking about the area. This should alert you to any well-known local opinions of the area.
Income And Employment Rate
Neighborhoods with higher income and employment rates tend to be more desirable. Most MLS will provide this data for you.
Consider driving through the neighborhood during a lunch break and after dark if you’re thinking of buying or renting. For example, if it’s a weekday afternoon and neighbors are out strolling or lounging on their yards and porches, it may mean many people are out of work in this area. If it’s quiet at night, you can feel more secure in the neighborhood you are moving into.
Check For Neighborhood Watch Groups
An absence of crime and a sense of community are indicators of a well-maintained neighborhood. Neighborhood watch groups are an excellent barometer of public safety in a particular location. Typically, they are organized groups of residents that monitor the area and report any unusual activity they see.
Visit The Neighborhood In Person (If Possible)
Condition Of Homes
Drive around the area and take a look at what you see. No matter how many people live there, a community’s level of disrepair speaks volumes about its security. One of the hallmarks of a secure community is a group of people who watch out for one another and take pleasure in their surroundings. Watch for terrible signs like deteriorating houses, shattered glass, and overgrown grass as you explore a prospective new neighborhood.
Every community has its share of eyesores, but when there are several of them together, it might be a neighborhood warning sign. Also, look to see if there are aggressive dog breeds in the yard and any signs of animal neglect.
Graffiti implies that sections of the neighborhood have gone unnoticed for an extended period. Look out for graffiti on buildings, alleys, street signs, telephone polls, and boarded-up homes. It’s evident that graffiti is an issue for locals, but it also demonstrates how tough it is to police the area. Perhaps law enforcement resources are being diverted away from this location to deal with more pressing crimes elsewhere in town.
Garbage And Litter
Nobody wants to live in a place that is constantly littered. As a result, crime, property prices, and community pride tend to suffer in trashed areas. Garbage creates more garbage.
A dumped broken TV will likely attract additional trash, and the area will become a landfill before long. The sooner trash can be cleaned up, the less likely it will have a chance to build up.
Obvious Physical Home Security
Chain link fences surround homes, and Beware of Dog or No Trespassing signs are posted at the entrances. You can also observe locks where none are expected, such as on AC units and mailboxes. These home security systems can indicate a tougher side of life, so be observant as you poke around the neighborhood.
As for small local businesses, you can see cages on the windows and doors of random establishments and shops. Gas station windows are barred or protected by bulletproof glass, and customers cannot enter the business after a particular hour.
Lingering or hanging around in a public space without a clear reason to do so is known as loitering. If you see individuals hanging about in the area throughout the day, chances are the area is unsafe and has a high crime rate. Loitering also occurs when groups of people who seem to be minors are out and about at odd hours.
Types Of Stores
See what kind of stores exist in the area. If many establishments open late, including several fast food restaurants, betting establishments, and stores to get a payday loan or exchange gold for cash, these shops are often found in rougher neighborhoods.
Damage To Public Property
Inadequate maintenance of roads, broken or vandalized street lights and signs, clogged drains, and unattractive parks are all indicators of a lack of government investment in or disregard for the neighborhood.
Abandoned Houses And Buildings
Empty homes and street convenience stores are glaring indicators of a neighborhood’s decline. Empty stores, apartments, and houses that haven’t been used for six months to a year and don’t open up back may indicate crime or other problems in the area.
It’s clear that it might be the wrong neighborhood for you when there are numerous decaying and unoccupied homes.
Talk To Local Business Owners
Coffee shops, bookshops, and family-friendly restaurants are all positive clues to a thriving commercial district. Those with a comfortable financial cushion are more inclined to enjoy the occasional extravagance, such as a night out on the town. Take note of the establishments and clientele in your immediate vicinity.
Pay Attention To Neighbors
The presence and demeanor of pedestrians going about their day might provide valuable information regarding the neighborhood’s safety. Seeing dog walkers and moms pushing strollers might suggest a safe, family-friendly area. Those people there may be good or bad neighbors to you. Would you feel comfortable asking them for a cup of sugar when you run out?
How To See If A Neighborhood Is Safe
Agents in the real estate business often have insider knowledge about which communities are considered good neighborhoods and are glad to share that knowledge with you. The most important thing is to choose an agent with whom you have a genuine connection and who isn’t simply out to make a quick buck. Your agent’s ownership of a home in the area is even more of a vote of confidence.
Knowing the worst-case scenario you and your family can face if you decide to get a mortgage on a home in a bad neighborhood is important. You may have to spend a few years in a less-than-desirable part of town before you can afford to move to the city’s more upscale district. Before settling on a course of action, think carefully about your choices and the available information.