Neighborhood Ratings and Community Safety
When people imagine their neighborhood, they usually picture a safe and welcoming community. Crime rates are a major concern among Americans, and purchasing a home in an area with high crime rates will lead to less desirable tenants and lower rents. Investing in residential real estate presents a tremendous opportunity to grow your portfolio, and new and veteran buyers must all be aware of where they purchase their next home. Here’s what you need to know about assessing neighborhood safety and investigating neighborhood ratings.
How to Check Crime Rate in an Area
Neighborhood safety should be a top priority for any landlord looking to buy or any renter looking to rent. You can bet current and prospective renters will be googling “crime history of my house.” But unless you are intimately familiar with an area’s neighborhood safety score, you need a way to ascertain how safe a community is. When people move to a new neighborhood, one of the main questions they’ll ask is: “Is my neighborhood safe?” Here are a few tips and tools to help you answer this question.
Use a Crime Mapping Service
Get direct information on a safe neighborhood by utilizing a crime mapping service. Popular sites include SpotCrime and CrimeReports. These platforms collect data from police and crime reports and make them available to the public. To use them, type in an address, and you will receive a breakdown of both confirmed crimes and potential crimes. The information is categorized by crime by address and the type of crime that was committed. After all, there is a big difference between a spate of bicycle thefts and major violent crimes when determining neighborhood safety.
Look Up Livability Factors
Basic crime statistics alone do not provide accurate neighborhood ratings. Safety and security are important, but if you are examining a smaller community, even one or two crimes could yield a higher crime percentage and vice-versa. Landlords making smart investment decisions need to consider other factors to determine how good or bad a neighborhood is. AreaVibes and NeighborhoodScout are two excellent tools for factoring in additional neighborhood information by address. For example, you can search based on what matters to you the most, such as crime ratings, public school rankings, and other general livability factors.
Look Up Registered Sex Offenders
Nothing can turn away a potential tenant like the presence of a registered sex offender in the neighborhood, especially if they have children. The U.S. Department of Justice provides a freely available tool called the National Sex Offender Public Website. Just enter your address, and it will reveal how many registered sex offenders live close to a piece of potential real estate. Family Watchdog is a similar tool that also provides education on threats within a neighborhood.
Visit the Neighborhood During the Day and Night
The best way to answer, “How safe is my neighborhood?” is to visit it yourself in person. Drive through the local area or take a walk both during the day and during the night. If something doesn’t feel right, trust your gut instinct. Many areas of the country may look perfectly safe and secure throughout the daylight hours but can be completely transformed when night falls. Spend a few minutes exploring the neighborhood to get a feel for the local area.
Speak to the Locals
Getting a sense of neighborhood safety requires speaking to unbiased people. A person trying to sell a property will always claim there is no better neighborhood than theirs. Talking to some of the neighbors, on the other hand, may reveal an entirely different perspective. Connect with the local community both online and offline. The majority of people will be more than happy to share what it’s like to live there.
Any Home Can Be Made Secure
If you do decide to buy in an area with a lower neighborhood safety score, you will need to invest in various security measures to make your tenants feel safe. Implementing security measures can make your home more attractive to tenants and increase how much you can charge in rent. Here are some ideas for securing a property:
- External Lighting – Criminals like to hide in the dark. Install external lighting, so there’s no place to hide.
- Invest in Security Cameras – Security cameras are an immediate problem for criminals. Investing in security cameras reduces the likelihood of your property becoming a target for crime.
- Check for a Neighborhood Watch – Neighborhood watches are becoming increasingly common. These are an instant boost for any area, and they’re also an easy way for you to connect with your neighbors.
- Install Heavy–Duty Locks – Secure all doors and windows with highly durable, heavy-duty locks. They should require heavy tools to unlock by force, which will deter most home invaders.
- Set a Security Alarms – Basic home security alarms are a cost-effective way of preventing your property from becoming an easy target.
Always remember that neighborhood ratings and neighborhood safety scores alone do not tell the full story of a community. Judging based on arbitrary numbers alone is a mistake and could mean missing out on a potentially profitable investment. Do your due diligence and dig into the fabric of a neighborhood. With the help of the American Apartment Owners Association (AAOA), we help educate and provide knowledge to landlords looking to expand their portfolios. Learn more about assessing a neighborhood’s security and safety and get in touch with the American Apartment Owners Association today.
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