The most commonly agreed traits of a desirable neighborhood include good schools, low crime, and access to nearby playgrounds or parks. You can spot signs of a neighborhood gone awry, which will help you and your family decide whether the neighborhood is on the decline or on the way up.
Signs of vandalism include graffiti on walls and fences, mail boxes that have been damaged or smashed, and broken glass on the ground. Vandalism does not necessarily mean the residents neighbors are performing it, but it could mean that the neighborhood is a thoroughfare for nefarious types on the way to someplace else. This can increase the possibility of a future break-in or continued vandalism. The website Neighborhood Scout has customizable searches for every city that will tell you what has been reported.
Research published in a 2011 edition of the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology reported that "People use the general upkeep of physical structures when making wholesale judgments of neighborhoods, reflecting an adaptation for group living that has strong implications for the role of upkeep in urban environments." Look to see whether the front grass is mowed and trimmed, and if the paint on the homes is in good condition.
Consider the businesses near the area. It's likely a bad sign when many of the buildings are vacant. The quality of the business might tip you off to whether they are be aiming their products or services at poor people. Retail business owners pay close attention to the quality of the area. If businesses have moved out, the owners might know something you don't.
Crime and Criminal Search
Do some searches for information that might not be evident when driving through the neighborhood. Several websites can be a useful tool in finding out who your new neighbors might be (see Resources). Several sites also allow you to check on the crime rate and types of crime that have been committed in the neighborhood. High rates or many past offenders that live within the area might indicate it is a bad neighborhood for you and your family.
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