Caveat Emptor – Let the buyer beware and due diligence:
When home buyers engage an agent they often expect us to be the repository of any and all neighborhood information. They often don’t see the need to do their own research because they can just pick the brains of their buyers agent. But the truth is far more complicated than that. Steering Laws prevent me from divulging anything about following:
- Demographics – for example – I can not answer a questions like “Does this neighborhood have a lot of young families?”
- Schools – for example – I can not address whether a school district is good, bad or anything in between.
- Crime Stats – I can’t answer your questions about whether or not an area is “safe.” In truth you could be walking into a neighborhood rife with gang warfare – but I’m not allowed to discuss it.
Due Diligence is the home buyers responsibility:
The law says that I can not discuss these matters or offer an opinion on them. However, the law does not prevent me from providing the tools to help buyers find the information for themselves. So at the bottom of this there are links to every official municipality website in Westchester as well as a link to their local police/public safety departments.
Trulia has some demographic data as well as data on crime stats. Click here for New York State – and plug in the zip code or town of interest.
Another good site for demographics is City Data. Once again you can just plug in the zip code or town and go. Since I originally posted this page, this site has grown in leaps and bounds and is probably my first go-to place.
Neighborhood Scout is a site that you have to pay for to see the good stuff. But I’ve heard that people find it worthwhile to subscribe while they are in home-search mode. What I have found available for free is actually very informative.
One of the best online resources is Great Schools. Another resource is Niche. These days, I kind of like Niche because it takes a more holistic approach to schools. Test scores should never be the exclusive criteria for judging schools, yet that is what most of these sites do. Niche is a real exception to that rule.
Some sites rely heavily on scores and I would advise against using that as your sole criteria. Scores often reflect the affluence of an area more than they do the actual quality of the school system. I wrote about this in a previous blog about the The Great School Debate.
A buyer can also get a great deal of information from each school district’s website. It was quite a major undertaking, but the links to almost every school district’s official website can be found on my post, School Daze – Learning more about Westchester Schools. I can’t guarantee that I got every single Westchester public school district, but the list is quite complete.
The best way to judge a school system is by visiting the area schools are going directly to the administrative offices for information. This may sound very time-consuming – however this is where you are thinking of living for a long time and it is worth the effort.
I really do like City-Data for this. They don’t use a map, but they list the number of crimes and type of crime and then calculate it as a percentage of the population. Neighborhood Scout (once again, you pay) and Truila will give you some good information as well. There is also a Spot Crime. But in this case – as in the case of the schools – the best way is to call the local authorities directly. Below is a partial list of phone numbers for the local police. These are non-emergency numbers.
One of the problems with the on-line data for both demographics and crime is that some areas are Post Office addresses don’t relate to the same municipality. Further, maps can be deceiving. There is going to more total crime in dense areas. But the crime rate may be very low. For example, downtown White Plains hosts over 250,000 commuters. Of course with that concentration of people, the map is going to look like there’s a crime spree in the densest areas. Also remember that these are national maps and the nuances of let’s say Scarsdale the town and Scarsdale the PO – which covers a much bigger area may be blurred.
Whether you are searching for a home in Westchester or selling your current home, I am here to help. To go to the next level, you can start a custom home search or ask for a home evaluation. All you need to do is click one of the links below or contact me directly so we can discuss your purchasing or listing needs.
© 2016 – Ruthmarie G. Hicks – https://thewestchesterview.com – All rights reserved.