If you’re looking to buy a house, rent in a new area or just want to know more about a neighborhood, I’ve found two online tools that provide a wealth of data for free: waslkscore.com and redfin.com
At walkscore.com, you input a US address, and their alogrithm calculates how walkable it is on a scale from 1 to 100, where 1 is out in the middle of nowhere and 100 is mid-town Manhattan. The site takes into account proximity to public transportation, grocery stores, parks, schools, churches, bars and even fitness clubs, and returns a score accordingly. I entered my new address, and my current neighborhood scored a solid walkscore of 78, which just about matches the amount of walking I do for my day-to-day activities.
My second new favorite real estate tool is the MLS powerhouse site redfin.com . It provides all the information a real estate agent should provide a prospective buyer and more. After signing up for a free account, you can browse listings by MLS number, address, neighborhood, or city. You can refine a search by a dozen or more parameters, such as price, number of bedrooms or even year built. Search results return photos, maps, descriptions and comps. It’s even possible to compare neighborhoods side by side on this site, useful for instance, if you’re relocating to a new area and want to see how it compares to your current one.
For example, I compared my former zip code with my new one. They are very similar, perhaps not so surprising, in terms of safety and demographics. The main differences are density, age and wealth. My new area is 100 times more dense, slightly older, much whiter, and more affluent than my former area, according to redfin.com. The catch to use redfin.com is that the site makes money when you to use their real estate agents, who’s services are available for a discounted fee. But so far there are no limits on browsing.