50 Tools to Research Your New Home, Neighborhood, and Community
Posted by Staff Writers on February 5, 2009
Before you move, take a few minutes to make sure you’re well-acquainted with your new city and neighborhood. Use these online tools and guides to research school districts, look up sex offenders, find things to do in your community, and compare home prices.
Home Inspection and Security
Learn how to evaluate your new home’s vulnerability to thieves, research the history of your house, and more when you use these tools.
- Check local or county courthouse: City archives and the local courthouse should have deed registrations for your house, so you can find out who owned it or rented it before you.
- How to Research the History of Your House: This guide will help you take the steps necessary to finding out who owned your house before you, how to check public records, and more.
- House Histories: Learn to estimate how old your house is, find old title transfers, and more.
- Home Safety Game: Play this game to identify everyday dangers in your home and yard.
- It Takes a Thief: It Takes a Thief is another interactive game that challenges you to find your home’s security vulnerabilities.
Before buying a used car, do a check to make sure it wasn’t in a fire, stolen or salvaged.
- Auto Lemon – Used Car History Check: Use this site to look up the vehicle history report on your car.
- Carfax: Carfax has tools to help you uncover title problems, ownership history, accident history and more.
- DMV.org Vehicle History Reports: Use DMV.org to conduct a vehicle history report on your car to find out whether or not it was salvaged, fire damaged or in an accident.
- AutoCheck: AutoCheck is another great resource for checking odometer problems, frame damage, accidents, theft and more.
- VIN Numbers: This free report features a VIN glossary, VIN code law, decoding links and a car history report.
- Check My Car: Learn all about VIN checks here, then enter your car’s VIN to get a Vehicle History Report.
- Vehicle History Report: Your Key to a Good Used Car: Read Edmunds.com’s overview of Vehicle History Reports to learn about all the things you need to get checked before buying a used car.
Sex Offender Check
Look up sex offenders to find the safest neighborhood and zip code for your kids.
- Family Watchdog: Find sex offenders by location or name using this tool.
- Dru Sjodin National Sex Offender Public Website: Check for sex offenders on this national registry. The list combines all the names on state registries for an easy search.
- SexOffender.com: Read about Megan’s Law and access the database registry to look up violent offenders in your area.
- Map Sex Offenders: This database includes over 300,000 sex offenders around the country. Results in your area are displayed on a map so that you can see just how close they live.
- RegisteredOffendersList.org: Use this site to access photos, conviction information, offense dates, street addresses and other facts about the offenders living in your area.
- Code Amber Sex Offender Registries by State: This tool has links to every state’s sex offender registry.
Criminal Background Checks
If you suspect your co-worker, neighbor or even your child’s teacher of suspicious activity, run a criminal background check with one of these tools to find out.
- CriminalCheck.com: Use this site to conduct a criminal check by name or zip code.
- Public Record Finder: With Public Record Finder, you can do a criminal background check to learn about property ownership, bankruptcies, marriage records and more.
- Criminal Watchdog: This site uses its connections to official government reporting agencies to generate criminal background checks and public record checks.
- USA People Search: This report generates address and phone history, property ownership and court records, sex offender and criminal records, and more.
- Statewide Criminal Background Check Resources: Here you can find links to each state’s lists of inmates and criminal records.
- Criminal-Checks.com: Narrow your search by typing in a name, state, county, date of birth and gender to find criminal records.
- FBI NICS e-check: Use this official tool to find perpetrators in the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System.
- CrimCheck: Connect to over 1,330 government court sites to look up public records and criminal background checks.
- Background Check Gateway: Find state resources and look up neighborhood profiles on this website.
Real Estate Appraisal
Check your old home’s value or the general neighborhood value of your future community here.
- Zillow: Zillow looks up local mortgage rates and home value information.
- Yahoo! Real Estate: Here you can find tools to estimate home values, look up foreclosures and more.
- HouseValues.com: This free tool generates a report that reveals your home’s current market value.
- Real Estate ABC: Real Estate ABC estimates the value of your home based on the last 30 comparable sales in the area.
Compare school districts and find public school rankings with these tools.
- Homefair: Look up schools, local salary reports and other community information here.
- Search for Public Schools: The National Center for Education Statistics helps you find public schools in your area with this tool.
- Great Schools: Compare and get ratings for public schools and private schools here.
- SchoolMatters: Get feedback from parents who have rated their child’s school on this site.
- Neighborhood Scout Public School Ratings: Subscribe to these school ratings to find out how it compares to other schools in the state and country. You can find test scores, number of teachers, and more.
- Rankings of Public Schools: Before you move, use this tool to locate the top public schools in the state.
Local Crime Reports
These tools will help you run local crime reports so you know which neighborhoods and cities are safest.
- CrimeReports: Enter your city or street address, or click on a state to access local crime reports.
- City Profile Report: Using the U.S. Census Bureau estimates, this tool generates statistics about crime, demographics and more in different zip codes.
- Spot Crime: Spot Crime is "the most comprehensive online source of crime information." Select a state to get more information about your area.
- Wal-Mart Crime Report: If you plan on making lots of late-night trips to Wal-Mart, make sure your local store is safe.
- USA Cops: This tool connects you to local law enforcement agencies, where you can look up any city crime reports and safety information.
Beyond safety, you’ll want to make sure your new community has lots to offer in terms of social activities, grocery stores and more. Use these local guides and tools to explore your zip code from afar.
- Find My Nearest: If you live in the UK, type in your zip code to find your nearest florist, pubs and more.
- Neighborhood Scout: This all-in-one resource lets you scout out your future neighborhood before you move. Access real estate tools, school ratings, neighborhoods with kids, retirement communities and more.
- Weather.com: Weather.com’s averages and climate tools let you research how cold, rainy or hot a particular city gets each month.
- Google Local: Look up businesses, night life and more using this tool.
- Yelp: Yelp lets you post and browse reviews of local businesses, restaurants, shopping, and more.
- MyLocalLookup: Learn more about your new community when you use this tool to find nearby businesses, movie times, TV listings and more.
- Riley Guide: Find job opportunities by U.S. region here.
- Ready America: When you need to locate an emergency response team or first responder office, check this resource.