Author Topic: Where did you find data for homebuying decision and how did you decide?  (Read 2778 times)

daymare

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My husband and I may eventually buy property in the Boston area, with the caveat that said decision won't be made for several years, we'll be comparing costs of renting vs buying, and will try to be rational about things (including whether it makes sense to buy at all).  I have preferences that are similar to what I expect some others on this forum value as well: walk-ability to parks/grocery story/library, good resale/rental value potential, schools with opportunities (AP classes, extracurricular activities), diversity (don't want the town to be 92% white like the Boston suburb where I grew up), sufficient public transportation (to use for commute), not bigger than our needs dictate.

For those who own homes (or who don't but have done research), can you point me in the direction of resources you used to pull data on the areas you were considering?  I'm sure there are nationally-collected statistics as well as data sources focused on specific geographic areas (ie, Boston area for me).  I'll admit I'm a bit shocked looking at places on RedFin, plus I just read over Money Magazine's annual 'Best Places to Live' survey, which notably had nothing in New England (most likely due to above-average property costs among other things).

How did you decide whether (or not) to buy?  For those that made a logical (rather than mainly emotional) decision, what data sources did you find useful?  What did you consider as key criteria and factors?

Roots&Wings

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Data Sources I found useful:
1. NYT rent vs buy calc: http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2014/upshot/buy-rent-calculator.html
2. General statistics (including registered sex offenders) and neighborhood discussion forums: http://www.city-data.com/
3. Walkscore.com
4. Realtor.com & zillow for home sale data

Key factors for me:
1. Does it make sense financially to buy (use NYT calc)?
2. Would it work as a rental in the event I need/want to move (must meet the 1% rule minimally)?
3. Know the area well. Live in the area for awhile first to get to know what the neighborhoods are like (it can vary dramatically in a few blocks, which you wouldn't know being new to the area) and decide on a target area; then watch the market like a hawk and jump when a good property comes up.

I'm actively searching currently, have lost out on 2 houses I tried to buy (was outbid), and will see what happens in the coming months :)

Good luck in your search!

ShoulderThingThatGoesUp

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I highly recommend Redfin over Zillow for recent sales. Zillow misses probably half the listings in my area.

mozar

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One of my criteria was closeness to family. But I did make an emotional decision. Buying real estate is not a completely rational decision IMO. I also considered the fact that my job/client changes often and I wanted to be able to get to where most of my potential jobs in the future would be via public transportation. I got lucky that the house I wanted is also less than a mile from grocery/movies/library/farmers market/schools etc.
And it was the absolute bottom of the market in my area. I got a crappy mortgage rate because of a run up, but refinanced a year later when rates went down again. Some people say that you should rent in the area you want to buy, but I know my area pretty well since i grew up here.

I looked at schools via this website: http://www.greatschools.org/about/ratings.page

Racial diversity is a tough one. Because of institutionalized and other types of racism it's hard to find de-segregated neighborhoods anywhere. Mostly in my area it is very wealthy white neighborhoods, very poor hispanic neighborhoods, poor black neighborhoods and some middle class black neighborhoods. I settled for economic diversity. The houses here are reasonably priced so that lower middle class people can afford it as well as quirky rich people who want to live in a smallish house. It's mostly white but there are a lot of interracial couples and biracial children, and a strong lgbt contingent.


daymare

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Thanks for the resources, everyone!  I'd read the JL Collins post before, as well as played with the NYTimes calculator, but it's good to have all of that in one place, along with the other great resources I didn't know about (especially the city data and school ratings).

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3. Walkscore.com
Thanks for the suggestion - I'd used this site before when choosing apartments to rent, but didn't realize how customizable their website was!  You can apply filters of 'must have grocery store within an X minute walk', or the same thing for parks and schools.  If they added library data that would be ideal for me!  But I can always build out something on my own - getting the locations of libraries and mapping the radii.

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I did make an emotional decision. Buying real estate is not a completely rational decision IMO.
I completely agree - I'm simultaneously an emotional and highly analytical person and want to be better informed to counteract some of that in the housing decision.  The emotional will come in the future, for now I want to build my knowledge base.

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Racial diversity is a tough one. Because of institutionalized and other types of racism it's hard to find de-segregated neighborhoods anywhere.
Have to agree with you on that as well, mozar.  I really, really loved Shapiro & Oliver's book Black Wealth/ White Wealth, it opened my eyes to many of the systemic causes of neighborhood segregation.  For anyone interested in the topic, would highly recommend it.