How to Decide Where to Live

4 ways to keep your family safe in a new place


April 14, 2022

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How many times have you seen lists of the best places to live in the U.S. for families or the safest cities in America? Here’s the real scoop: Those lists are largely arbitrary and change year to year. Sure, the articles may base their “100 Safest Cities in America” on crime statistics or their “10 Best Places to Live” piece on cost of living, air quality, or transportation. But home is more personal than that.

When you’re ready to make a move, whether it’s 2 miles down the road or 2,000 miles across the country, how do you decide where to live, and how do you find a safe, enjoyable place to call home? Here are four ways to help you find your best city or neighborhood:

Check crime statistics

Do a little research to get a feel for the area before you sign mortgage papers.

  • Check the FBI’s Crime Data Explorer, which relies on local police reporting to compile its database. Filter statistics based on the type of crime, such as robbery, property incidents, and vehicle theft.

  • Scan the National Sex Offender website to find out whether any known sex offenders live near the area you plan to move to.

  • Understand data limitations. For every “Safest Cities in America” list, there are also articles proclaiming the “Worst Cities to Live In.” Look beyond the clickbait headlines, and take a more nuanced approach to your potential new location. You should research questions like: Does most crime occur in a certain part of the city? What about the suburbs?

  • Ask the locals. Rely on a realtor to recommend safe neighborhoods. Join NextDoor or area Facebook groups. Download the app to see real-time safety alerts in a specific area. Dine at a neighborhood dive, and strike up a conversation with your server. Visit schools, and initiate a Q&A with the staff.

Choose your determinants

Your relocation might be rooted in a career change, or perhaps you’re simply looking for a fresh start. No matter the reason, it’s important to pinpoint your quality-of-life preferences for your new locale. Here are some things to consider:

  • Ensure access to critical services. How close is the nearest fire station, the local police precinct, and the nearest hospital?

  • Find good health care. Whether you’re in a rural community or an urban area, factor in your proximity to the nearest medical center, especially if you have pre-existing health conditions.

  • Check out school districts. Before you buy a house, make sure to check the school district for which it’s zoned, even if you don’t yet have kids.

  • Map walkability. Looking for a family-friendly town where the kids can walk to school and you can stroll to a local restaurant or entertainment district? Check out a site like Walk Score when you begin your online research.

  • Watch the weather. Coastal-community flooding, flatland tornado seasons, and high-elevation snowstorms are all real possibilities. If you’re moving somewhere within 60 miles from the coast, for instance, check the FEMA Flood Map Service Center to see if your prospective property sits in a floodplain. In areas where seasonal wildfires pop up, visit the National Fire Awareness Site to familiarize yourself with wildfire perimeter data.

  • Determine air quality. Check out the U.S. Air Quality Index for information like index values, levels of concern, and allergen alerts.

Examine the area at different times of day

You’ve dreamed about that leafy suburb filled with historic homes. And, what do you know? You’ve found a house within your budget in just such a location. But before you fall in love with that craftsman bungalow, look around the neighborhood. Is the house next door in disrepair with a rusty car in the backyard? What is the general condition of the neighborhood? Are all houses occupied, or are several vacant? These may be red flags for the overall safety of the neighborhood.

  • Look to see if neighbors are out and about during the day, whether exercising, walking to the bus stop, or playing in their yards. That’s a good indication people feel comfortable with the area.

  • Listen for nighttime noises. A location near the local music scene may be appealing, until you’re trying to quiet a fussy infant or get some rest after a long day.

  • Notice busy streets. You may want to stay away from homes near busy intersections, railroad tracks, or congested interstates, particularly if you have children or pets.

Secure your new home

Did you find the perfect apartment in Lower Manhattan, Uptown New Orleans, or rural Nebraska? Make sure you consider home security when creating a list of things to buy for your new house. No matter where you settle, Brinks Home™ can help you create a comprehensive security plan, which we back with 24/7 professional monitoring and support.

Your city or town doesn’t have to make a top 10 list to be a wonderful environment for your family. When you’re ready to make a move, contact Brinks Home to keep your home safe and your family secure.

Jason Stevens is a senior writer for Brinks Home. He is a "tech guy" who enjoys sharing home security and automation tips with others.

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