Web Reviews: Web Opens Door to Community Data

Local connections: These sites help you research neighborhoods to find the crucial facts and figures that your clients need to know.

September 1, 2004

Community Data Web Site Roundup:

REALTOR.com: www.Realtor.com/FindNeig
American FactFinder: http://FactFinder.Census.gov
EPodunk: www.EPodunk.com
Sperling’s Best Places: www.BestPlaces.net
FirstGov.gov: www.FirstGov.gov
CitySearch: www.CitySearch.com

Selling a home is also about selling the neighborhood. After all, fun restaurants, good schools, and vibrant downtowns can be just as appealing to buyers as walk-in closets and big back yards.

The Web is good starting point for finding all sorts of community knowledge, from crime statistics to nightlife options. The information can spruce up your listing presentations and be pivotal in a shopper’s decision to buy. In addition your local government and newspaper Web sites, here are six information-packed sources of insight into communities across the country:

  • REALTOR.com. This site, owned by the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®, is geared toward consumers seeking a new home. By entering a ZIP code, you can research a neighborhood's average home prices, school locations, and homes for sale. Or you can browse “dominant lifestyle” information, which includes residents’ median age, household income, and educational background. Another tool will Find the Best Neighborhood for You based on your preferences for home price, square footage, urbanization, and type of home. If you’re moving out of state but would like live in a community like the one you’re in now, there’s also a tool to Find Neighborhoods Like Your Own.
  • American FactFinder. Run by the U.S. Census Bureau, this site is a source for population, housing, economic, and geographic data. The easy-to-use Fact Sheet lets you type in a street address, county, or a town name to retrieve a wealth of information. You can find social characteristics—like the percentage of residents with college degrees—as well as the average travel times to work, and the number of owner-occupied homes vs. renter-occupied. The Housing section has even more detailed information about the area’s housing stock, like the year most homes were built and average monthly rents. There’s a link on this site to another helpful source, the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey—a new nationwide survey designed to give communities a fresh look at how they’re changing on a yearly basis. A great feature of this section is the Ranking Tables, which lets you compare states, counties, and cities on key issues like education, housing, and commute times.
  • EPodunk. Here’s the place to go if you really want to have fun mining for local information. Community profiles give you the serious stuff—demographics, local government contacts, and nearby airports—along with fun e-postcards, lists of well-known residents, and movies that have been filmed there. It’s great trivia to spice up your listing presentation or marketing materials. Search community profiles by State and by County. Or, if you want to find local information on a particular topic, click on the tabs for categories like Politics or Museums. Don’t forget to check out the ePodunk Indexes, where you can find rankings and top 10 lists. Some recent rankings and lists include Gay Friendly Counties, Walkable Small Towns, and the Most Misspelled Cities.
  • Sperling’s Best Places. This site calls itself “the ultimate resource for relocation, recreation, and retirement.” You can find Neighborhood Profiles by simply entering a zip code, and then browse crime rates, climate, cost of living data, school statistics, and more by clicking the other tabs on the right side of the page. There are also results from studies that examine quality of life issues; You can see how your area stacks up on the Best and Worst Cities for Dating (not too well, if you live in Kansas City, Mo.) or on the ranking of America’s Most and Least Stressful Cities.
  • FirstGov.gov. The U.S. government’s official Web portal provides links to state, local, and tribal governments around the country. Go to the Local Governments page to find information about local mayors, a directory of local travel and tourism sites, and services available in your community. Neighborhood newcomers who haven’t yet registered to vote can visit the Voting and Elections page to register online and find voting district maps. And to see how many schools are in the area and get enrollment data, the Education, Jobs and Volunteerism page includes a School Locator, which displays detailed school information from the National Center from Educational Statistics.
  • CitySearch. For a list of restaurants, nightlife options, and shopping information, this site is a good bet. By clicking on the tabs at the top of the screen, you can search local restaurants by cuisine, find salons and health clubs, get movie information, and see what other entertainment is available in the area. For each locale there’s also a weather forecast and ideas for fun weekend outings. It’s important to note that there’s far more information available on this site for larger cities and towns, and that much of the site’s content is advertising driven.
Kelly Quigley

Kelly Quigley is the former managing editor of REALTOR® Magazine.

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