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Know your home's future

Is a neighborhood you're interested caught up in the housing bust? How do the schools rate? This information is a few clicks away.

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By Joe Light, Ismat Sarah Mangla and Pat Regnier

The 28 Best Money Web Sites
• College
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NEW YORK (Money Magazine) -- Whether you're thinking of moving to a new city or just want to know more about what's up in your own backyard, the Web lets you see a town from countless angles.

Scope out the houses

You can start your neighborhood search from miles up at Trulia.com. Type in a town and you can choose a satellite view or street map of the place. You can also choose a "Heat Map" that breaks down the city by neighborhoods and shows you how hot (red) or cold (green) each area is, based on prices, sales or popularity among Trulia users.

Click on the map to see homes listed for sale in each nabe.

You can also ask other users a question about the area - or just read the discussions.

Curious about the value of your home or the neighbors'? Then check out the similar Zillow.com for an estimate of every house on the block.

Satellite maps give you a great look at roofs and backyard pools, but at Microsoft's Maps.Live.com you can often get a bird's-eye view - that is, it's at an angle, so you can see the sides of houses too.

And in some neighborhoods Maps.Google.com can even give you a 360° street-level view. (It's cool and a little creepy.)

Walkscore.com shows in one screen all amenities - such as coffee shops, drugstores and schools - within walking distance of an address, and scores the neighborhood for "walkability."

Check out the schools

Standard & Poor's SchoolMatters.com has all the basic data on public schools - test scores, school and district demographics - in a clean, easy-to-use interface.

The not-for-profit GreatSchools.net is less streamlined but does more. It has info on private schools, its own school-rating system and its own writers. Both sites also have parents' reviews of schools, though GreatSchools seems to have more to read now.

Meet the neighbors

Local blogs (like Baristanet in New Jersey or MNSpeak in the Twin Cities) often do a better job than the local paper of digging into the neighborhood nitty-gritty. You can find them with a little creative surfing: Start with PlaceBlogger.com and kcnn.org/citmedia_sites for directories of blogs, and Outside.in, a nifty site that searches for blog posts by city or zip code.

And search for local online discussion forums at groups.yahoo.com. Parents' groups are often the place to get the real block-byblock 4-1-1 and can be a great way to meet new people.

Find groups by searching on keywords like "parents," "kids" or "SAHMs" (as in "stay-at-home moms"). You may have to send a message applying for membership to get in on the discussion. To top of page

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