When you are in the market for a new home, you might ask your Realtor® questions about a “safe” neighborhood, or about “good” schools. Guess what? We can’t answer those questions because we cannot make claims about your future personal experience, or even about ever-changing circumstances in the environment. What we can do is to guide you to online resources for doing your own research.
One of these resources is Great Schools. Here is a website that uses some public information, but also opinions of the parents involved with the specific school you are interested in to put together a picture that can assist you in your research. Starting with this website is dandy, but of course, you will want to go visit the school, visit with the principal, and possibly some teachers, in order to form your own opinion.
There are certainly instances in which a school does not look first-rate on paper, but it might have within it a special program or special approach which is just right for your student and gives you an A+ experience, in spite of the ratings.
A website people often use to look up sex offenders and others with criminal backgrounds is Home Facts. You can search by address to find registered offenders nearby. Keep in mind that the website might not be completely up-to-date at all times. Also, keep in mind that the category of ‘sex offenders’ is pretty broad and might include people you would not consider a threat to your family. It pays to do the research, but then to analyze the results carefully for facts that are important to you.
When is the best time to use these websites and other search tools? When you first start considering a particular neighborhood, preferably before you have actually looked at specific houses.
Why so early? Well, by the time you make an offer on a home and have it accepted, you will likely have only a week or less of option period to research every eventuality regarding the home, including title issues (might want a real estate lawyer for this one!), structural issues (need an inspector, or two, or three, as well as professionals who work on specific systems of homes to advise you), your own visits with neighbors and reconnaissance trips day and night, to get as complete a picture as possible of what package you are buying. You might as well do general research, such as schools and nearby sex offenders, ahead of the rush.