In "House Hunting Tips" one piece of advice I gave was to research the neighbourhood Let’s go into detail as the neighbourhood might determine if you are going to have a fabulous time or a daily horror show.
I start with checking the crime statistics. In the UK I use search by postcode using crime statistics. An example of a search would be "G1 2AF" (Glasgow city centre which returns 53 reported crimes such as antisocial behaviour (22), burglary (1) and other (25). It is a city centre address with many pubs and bars so a reported 22 antisocial behaviour crimes is not that neither surprising nor the worst it could be. If you live in the U.S. - I suggest using Crime Reports.
Another way is to search in Google for: Incident/accident/crime/burglary/sexual abuse at the name of the street and town you are interested in. For example search for: incident at Newbury Street Boston which shows that in 2014 there was a stabbing reported in Back Bay as well as giving a more detailed crime map.
As mentioned in a previous post it is a great idea if you can check the neighbourhood at different times of the day/year. When looking for a flat and for some reason you cannot visit the area go to Google Street View. It will give you a general (sometimes might be slightly outdated) feel of the neighbourhood Check how other flats are looking if the areas outside of them are tidy, are shops open? I would be aware and double check if there are many closed business properties such as shops, barbers etc. Yes, the area might just not be suitable for the business but you might want to check if there was a reoccurring burglary that forced the business to move.
Another thing I look for is how close the bars/pubs/nightclubs are from the property. I always feel uneasy passing dodgy looking bars on my way home. Also if you are a light sleeper noise caused by people, traffic, or music from outside can be disturbing. I know one lovely, then single, woman that bought a flat with a free business space underneath it. For the first couple of months passed quickly but before she knew it the empty space turned into a little Mordor and a daily drinking meeting place for shady characters.
Checking out the area and property development plans might be a wise idea. The perfect location and bedroom view might not be as perfect after someone who buys the land and decides to start building a factory just opposite your window. In the UK start checking planning permissions by contacting the local council.
If you are going to visit the area do not be afraid to ask people you meet there what they think of the neighbourhood There is nothing wrong with a friendly chat with a shop assistant about the area while you are buying a drink. Coming back to talking with strangers, it will give you an idea of what sort of community dominates in the area. Are people friendly or rushed? Is it mainly young families? Singles? Stay at home mothers?
How far away form your work/University is it?
Is it in the city centre Do I want to live in the centre Are they any city attractions nearby?
What do crime statistics say?
Is there an airport nearby? Can I hear it?
Is there a dentist and medical practice within walking distance? If not, how far do I have to travel in case of emergency?
Is there a bus or subway line nearby?
Is there a grocery shop?
How close is the gym?
Am I willing to commute? If so how much additionally will I have to spend for a monthly pass?
How long does the commute take?
How much is the Council Tax?
How do people look like?
Are they rushed?
Do they look friendly?
Are there any people that cause you to walk on the opposite side of the street?
Come back next week for the post “Flatmates - yay or nay”. What factors do you take into consideration? Do you like your neighborhood?