So you’re looking to move to a new part of the bay area, and don’t know where to start – Don’t worry! There are some great websites to get you going FAST. The key things you should know about the area you’re moving to are:
- What schools are in the area , and how are they ranked?
- What is the crime rate in the area?
- What are the Demographics in the area?
- What kind of commute are you going to have?
- What are the best local restaurants, dry cleaners, night life, etc
1. School Rankings
This is typically one of the most important factors in selecting the right area because even if you don’t have kids, you need to consider the desirability of your home since sooner or later, you’ll be selling it. There are many sites to choose from to look up school information, but these are my recommendations:
- If you want to have the very latest information in a (mostly unsorted) format, the best thing to do is to go straight to the source (California Department of Education): http://www.cde.ca.gov/ta/ac/ap/apireports.asp . Here you will be able to find the latest API scores for schools, arranged by county, district, or state. Unfortunately, this site will not help you determine school boundaries.
- Now if you don’t mind working with 2009 information (at least until they update it)Movoto is a very user friendly site to search for schools by city, district or address: http://www.movoto.com/schools.aspx Just select the city you want and you’ll see a list of schools and API scores. The great thing about Movoto’s school search is that you can then select up to three schools and compare them against each other in detail, or you can select a school and see how their API scores have been trending over the past few years. Movoto also has a lot of other information that makes this a very useful site.
- You’ll find most of the school info you’ll need on Movoto, but when I want to quickly check a zipcode or city for a particular school, or do a quick search for a specific school, I usually use – http://www.school-ratings.com/ This is a really simple-basic site, which is also why it’s so fast to use. Simply enter a school name or a zipcode and that’s it. School ratings doesn’t give you all the information that Movoto will, but it’s very quick, and provides you with API scores, State Rank, class sizes and average parent education score (scale of 1 – 5, where 5 is a PHD and 2 is Highschool grad).
- The other nice feature it has is “school ranking maps” – http://www.school-ratings.com/allCaliforniaCities.php . This is really great for someone completely unfamiliar with an area. You can search by city, or county and quickly see which areas have good schools vs bad schools with a simple red-green color code.
One final note on schools: there is no reliable way to quckly check which schools are assigned to a particular home, because depending on where you are in the bay area, school boundaries can be VERY confusing. The only way to know for sure is to check at the district level. Some districts have a school look-up tool where you can enter the address you’re curious about. Other districts just have maps, which may or may not be up-to-date, so in many cases the most reliable thing is to just call the district office directly.
2 & 3. Crime Rates and Demographics
I’m lumping these together, because you will typically find this information on the same sites:
- http://www.city-data.com/ Is a fantastic free site, that’s quick, easy to use, and provides an OVERWHELMING amount of statistics about any city you might be interested in.
- Another good site for checking crime rates that is also userfriendly is Relocation Essentials – http://www.relocationessentials.com/aff/www/tools/crime/crime.aspx The good thing about checking crime rates here is that once you select the city, it will let you narrow it down by zip code, which can make a big difference in certain areas. The thing that makes this site useful is the community comparison that they do by Zipcode: http://www.relocationessentials.com/aff/www/tools/community/index.aspx
4. Traffic and Your Future Commute
This is a factor that many buyers don’t think about until it’s too late. You might be saving $50K by purchasing a home farther out, but now you have to spend an extra hour per day driving. That means that if you’re currently earning $75K/year, that’s roughly $8200 per year in terms of your time, and another $3K/year for gas… not to mention additional wear and tear on your car. Over 5 years that’s $56,000 … so the $50K you saved might not be worth it at all. On the flip side, you might do the math and decide that it makes perfect sense to commute, so here’s where you go to find the best commute info:
- 511.org – Or more specifically, the 511 Trip Predictor – http://traffic.511.org/his_traffic_text.asp Simply select where you’re coming from, where you’re going, and then pick the time and date of your trip. The trip predictor will then use it’s huge database of traffic info to tell you what the typical driving time for that time and day is. Don’t forget to check both weekdays/weekends, & morning/evening traffic, because if you’re not from the area, you will quickly see the typical traffic patterns.
- Don’t have a car?? No Problem! The other great thing about 511.org is their trip planner for public transportation, just enter your address and destination, and the trip planner will give you the shortest or fastest routes utilizing public transportation.
- I’ve recently discovered that google maps has a similar tool to the 511 trip predictor, though not as good YET. Once you do driving directions, activate the “traffic” tool on the upper right corner of the map (if it’s not already turned on). Once it’s activated, click on “live traffic” on the lower left corner of the map, and it will let you change the day and time to see the different traffic patterns.
5. Looking for great local restaurants, hair stylist, or just about any other type of service business?
Chances are, if you’re reading this blog, you already know the answer to this one. Simply go to www.yelp.com . Once you enter your new address, you can search for all businesses by category (such as restaurants, laundry, hair cut) or anything else you might be looking for. There are lots of convenient ways to search, such as by $$$, by distance, or by popularity. Read the reviews and pick your new favorite.
If you are looking for any other tools, websites, or are thinking of buying or selling a home in the bay area, CONTACT US today for a free consultation!