So you’ve decided to buy a home or maybe you’re relocating to the Waco area. Either way, you’ll want to do your research about Waco real estate and the area. Where do you start? I hear ya… searching on the internet can be a daunting task. Forget about the tons of information that’s available online, but trying to find RELIABLE information can be a pain too!
If you’d rather look around online instead of talking to a Realtor first (really, we’re not scary people! Okay, well maybe some of us, but not all of us), I’ve got some cool tricks, tips, and websites fer ya.
You’re relocating to Waco? GREAT! We’d love to have ya here (especially if you can pull some strings and get Grandy’s Restaraunt to open back up in Waco). Here’s a list of cool websites to check out (well not including my website, which goes without saying 🙂 )
I love this site for looking at photos of neighborhoods. Google Earth is a nice program, but with Virtual Earth, you get a “bird’s eye view” option (in addition to the satellite photos). The bird’s eye view will get you “closer to the neighborhood” than the satellite view option. So0000, you found a great looking house online, but you want to get a feel for the surrounding area…. Virtual Earth is a great way to get that info! Here are screen shots of Twin Rivers, Hidden Valley, and Badger Ranch to give you an idea of what you can see:
You can drag the map around and expand the views too. It’s really a neat tool that I use all the time when I’m talking via email with people out of town. I’ll take screen shots (or send them the link) so they can see the areas and judge how far this or that is from here or there. I’m surprised that more real estate agents don’t utilize this tool….. at all. Visually, it really helps people out who are currently living out of town but relocating to the Waco area.
Of course when mentioning properties, maps, satellite photos, etc… You can’t forget about the de facto standard of Google Maps with (most importantly) Street View. If you haven’t heard of Google’s street view option on their mapping website, then wake up!!! Put the donut down, turn off the golf channel, hop on the internet and check it out!
Not all areas are covered, but Google is adding more street level views everyday. Their goal is to map the entire world.
After you check out the bird’s eye view of various Waco areas, head to Google Maps and check out the street view! It’s like you’re driving your car down the road, driving past the house yourself. Google Street View can really give you and idea of how some areas are laid out.
After all, just finding the right house is only part of the process. You know what the say… Location, Location, Location! It’s your chance to take a true virtual tour of the neighborhood that you’re thinking about calling home!
Waco Chamber of Commerce
The Waco of Chamber Commerce website is a great souce for learning about Waco, especially if you’ll be opening a new business here. It has all kinds of stats and information. Check out Waco Prospector too.
Waco Tribune Herald
I can’t forget to include the local paper’s website! All things Waco (and more). News, classifieds, etc… Actually they do a really good job with the website. If you’ve got a hankering to move from Pontotoc, Mississippi to Waco, Texas, this a great site to visit and try to get a feel for Central Texas.
McLennan County Appraisal District (MCAD)
Texas property taxes tend to be higher than a lot of other states. Part of the reason for the higher property taxes? Texas’ lack of a state income tax. Before you get “sticker shock” over the tax amount, you may want to browse around the website to get an idea of what the property taxes would be on any home you’re thinking about buying.
Be aware though that the value for taxes may not be an accurate estimate of the MARKET price of a home. A general rule in real estate is that there are 3 “values” for any given home:
- The appraised value on which the county will asses taxes (Tax Appraised Value)
- The appraised value on which a bank or lender will use in the process to determine whether or not they’ll make a home loan available for you on that property
- The market value for a home. The amount someone (a potential home buyer) would be willing to pay for the home
In a perfect world, all of these amounts would be the same. But this is far from a perfect world! Unfortunately, when it comes to comparing home purchase price vs. tax appraisal, there can be (and many times, are) discrepancies… sometimes WAY OFF!
For example, if you’re looking at buying a home for let’s say, $200,000 and the week before you supposed to close on your new home, you go to the appraisal district website and notice that the appraised value is at $225,000, don’t automatically think that you got a great deal and you got it for $25,000 less than it’s worth! And vice-versa. Many factors can play into inaccurate tax appraisals. Maybe the home owner never protested their tax appraised values. Maybe the MCAD website has the wrong square footage, etc….
Actually, I was kind of reluctant to suggest the county appraisal district’s website. Sometimes it does nothing more than confuse people when they see a different value listed for tax purposes than what they are actually paying for the house. Just be aware, when you’re on the county’s website looking at property information, look at it strictly for the dollar amount of taxes that will need to be paid. DON’T use that info to try to get an idea of the home’s market value. The best way to help determine actual market value for a home is by having your Realtor pull comps (recent sales information) for the neighborhood and compare the price per square foot of homes that are active, sold, expired, and under contract. Also, other variables will play into an estimate of market value – age, condition, location, amenities of that home vs. other homes in the neighborhood, etc…
This a great resource for learning about different cities. They have a ton of information regarding the people, population, climate, economics, etc…
Don’t know which school district you want your children to attend? Greatschools.net is a valuable website for those folks seeking education information! It has parent reviews, demographics, number of pupils to teacher, classes offered, etc…
Texas Education Agency
The TEA website is another excellent resource for people concerned with school districts. The Texas Education Agency does post state ratings/rankings for all the schools. Is the elementary school that you child would be attending rated as recognized or unacceptable? Find out straight from the state.
Those are just a few websites that you can visit to gain a little insight on what to expect from Waco, Waco real estate, and life in Waco. Of course, if you have any questions call me anytime!