Real Estate Data for the Rest of Us

articles about “Crime, Schools, Commute

School Districts People Flock to – and Flee From

Parents “vote with their feet” by moving to better schools. We looked in every part of the country to find which districts attract parents with school-aged kids. Should you follow in their footsteps?

Jed Kolko, Chief Economist
August 28, 2012

The back-to-school season is upon us. Across the country, millions of children are preparing to hit the books. Many of those kids will be entering school for the first time, making this season a huge transition for them and their families. But for many families, starting school isn’t the only transition. Our analysis of Census data shows that 57% of households where the oldest child is between 5 and 9 years old said they moved sometime in the previous five years. Lots of factors go into the decision of whether to move and where, and for parents, this decision is largely driven by what matters most to their families: affordability, more space and of course good schools.

To figure out which school districts are the “most attractive” – in the sense that they attract families with school-age kids — we looked at the number of elementary school kids (by which we mean kids aged 5 to 9) and the number of preschoolers (kids aged 0 to 4) living in every school district in the U.S., according to the 2010 Census. The ratio of elementary school kids to preschoolers shows whether families move to or away from a district as kids approach school age. Since the Census is a snapshot in time, we can’t track individual families to see whether and when they actually moved to a different school district, but the ratio does reveal their overall movement patterns.

Here’s why: if families never moved, then the number of 5-to-9 year-olds would be very close to the number of 0-to-4 year-olds in an area, and the ratio would be very close to 1. (Nationally, the ratio is 1.01.) Children don’t just magically vanish after age 4; nor does the stork drop 5-year-olds from the sky. Therefore, a ratio below 1 indicates that more families are moving out of an area than are moving in as children reach school age. And vice-versa, a ratio above 1 indicates that more families are moving in than moving out. The higher the ratio, the more “attractive” the school district is, because it literally attracts more families with school-age kids.

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Where Violent Crimes Happen

Trulia Local gives you the local scoop on where violent crime happens, adding an extra layer of insights to its crime maps.

the Trulia Trends team
March 8, 2012

At Trulia, we work hard to help you find the best place to live and we’ve been exploring the seedy underworld of crime, so that you don’t accidentally buy a home and move to the bad part of town.

Last year, we brought our Crime Maps to life, which illustrated where crime happens in 50 U.S. counties and later did an investigation into when crime happens. Most recently, we launched Trulia Local which expanded the coverage of our original Crime Maps across the entire country (while also providing insights on schools and neighborhood amenities) to help house hunters answer the question: “What’s it like to live here?”

What we’ve done up to this point for our heat maps is show you crime density — that is, where are the areas with the most crimes? As you can see in San Francisco, there’s a lot of action in the Tenderloin, some in the Mission and Downtown, and not much elsewhere. Given the Tenderloin’s reputation, most people (who think they know the the city) would say that sounds about right.

But is it right? Ask any native San Franciscans and they’ll probably balk and say, “what about Hunters Point?” (FYI, this neighborhood has a notorious reputation. In fact, the NY Times described it as being “one of the city’s most violent neighborhoods.”)

Well as it turns out, Hunters Point, which is located in the southeast part of San Francisco, doesn’t experience a ton of crime — but when it does happen, they’re violent: fights, shootings and assaults.

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What Really Mattered: Week of Sept 26-30, 2011

Jed Kolko, Chief Economist
September 30, 2011

Welcome. Now that I’m getting settled in my role as Chief Economist at Trulia, I’m kicking off a series of blog posts on Trulia Insights that will sift through the week’s news and explain what really mattered.  Different news matters to different people: a trader dealing in real estate investment trusts (REITs) follows every fluctuation in every market indicator, but most of us only care about our local housing market and about the trends that are here to stay. I’ll look back at the week and point to new housing market and economic data that were especially surprising or important, and put it into context. I’ll also highlight insights that are under-the-radar but say something important about housing today and in the future. I’d love your feedback on these posts and any findings you come across that you think are worth discussing.

This week, some thoughts on the latest Case-Shiller home price index and shadow inventory data, as well as new findings that caught my eye about traffic congestion and the mortgage interest deduction:

First up: the S&P Case-Shiller index, an important measure of home price changes, increased for the fourth straight month. Celebrate? Not so fast. Prices usually rise more in these months than at others times of the year. From March to July (this week’s release was the July numbers), the index went up a total of 3.7% – that’s pretty good – but the seasonally adjusted index went up only 0.2%. This means that the 3.7% increase was almost all about the spring/summer bounce that happens most years rather than the beginning of a real long-term trend. One way to take out seasonality is to compare the index to the same time last year, and by that measure home prices fell 4.1%. Not so good.

Next up is the decline in shadow inventory. When there are more homes for sale than there are buyers in a market, prices stay low.  But in addition to homes actually on the market, there’s also the “shadow inventory”: homes that aren’t on the market today but probably will be because the homeowner is seriously behind on mortgage payments or the home is in foreclosure or has been taken back by the bank. A large shadow inventory, like a large listed inventory, keeps pressure on prices from rising. CoreLogic reported this week that the shadow inventory is down over 15% in July 2011 versus July 2010. But the current shadow inventory of 1.6 million is still much higher than before the housing crisis, when it was regularly under 500,000. This shadow inventory will have to shrink a lot more before prices really start moving up.

The Texas Transportation Institute published its annual report on traffic congestion. Having a short commute is a key factor in where people want to live. If you’re moving someplace new, you should know how much time you’ll spend in traffic; even if you’re not moving, trends in traffic congestion could affect your home’s value. So what happened to traffic last year? High unemployment means fewer commuters on the road and less congestion: the average commuter lost 34 hours in 2010 from being stuck in traffic, down from 39 hours in 2005. Commuters in Washington DC, Chicago and Los Angeles lost the most time due to traffic jams. Meanwhile, the folks who lost the least amount of time live in places with newer infrastructure, like Phoenix, or slower growth, like Detroit.

Rank Metro Area Hours Stuck in Traffic in 2010
1 Washington DC-VA-MD 74
2 Chicago, IL-IN 71
3 Los Angeles-Long Beach-Santa Ana, CA 64
4 Houston, TX 57
5 New York-Newark, NY-NJ-CT 54
6 San Francisco-Oakland, CA 50
7 Boston, MA-NH-RI 47
8 Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington, TX 45
9 Seattle, WA 44
10 Atlanta, GA 43
11 Philadelphia, PA-NJ-DE-MD 42
12 Miami, FL 38
13 San Diego, CA 38
14 Phoenix, CA 35
15 Detroit, MI 33
*Based on findings from the Texas Transportation Institute’s 2011 Urban Mobility Report


But if you can’t stomach listening to the traffic report and brake lights give you road rage, move to a smaller city: commuters in my hometown of Rochester NY spend only 13 hours a year in traffic, and those in McAllen TX, Stockton CA, and Eugene OR spend fewer than 10. And for those of you who can pick and choose your driving times, work from home on Friday and stay off the roads between 5-6 pm.

As the government fights over the federal budget deficit, the mortgage interest deduction – the ability to deduct your mortgage interest payments from your taxable income if you choose to itemize — is a tempting target for politicians: it lowers annual tax revenue by roughly $100 billion, and fewer than 30% of taxpayers even itemize their deductions in the first place. So who takes this benefit? This week, new research shows how much of this tax deduction goes to people in different parts of the country. The differences are huge: in high-income places with high homeownership rates, like the suburbs of Denver, Washington DC and Minneapolis, over 40% of filers claim the deduction, but fewer than 10% in places with low income or low homeownership, like parts of rural Texas and the poorer parts of New York City. Of those who do claim the deduction, the average amount ranges from over $20,000 in coastal California, where homes are expensive, to around $6,000 in rural upstate and western New York. Do these inequities mean that the mortgage interest deduction is doomed, and you itemizers will be paying more tax? No. Because politicians represent geographic areas, the concentration of the mortgage deduction benefits in specific areas means that representatives in those areas will fight hard to preserve the deduction: the mortgage interest deduction would be in greater danger if the same overall benefits were spread evenly across the country. Ironically, the inequity of the mortgage interest deduction boosts its chances for political survival.



– S&P/Case-Shiller index, September 2011 release
– CoreLogic shadow inventory report, September 2011
– Texas Transportation Institute’s 2011 Urban Mobility Report
– “The Geographic (and Political) Distribution of Mortgage Interest Deduction Benefits”, by Ike Brannon, Andrew Hanson, and Zackary Hawley


Do Bad Guys Ever Sleep? Visualization Preview

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Do Bad Guys Ever Sleep?

Crime happens all day long, but when it peaks and wanes really depends on where you live.

the Trulia Trends team
July 5, 2011

After we brought crime maps into the world, we decided take a deeper look at when crime typically happens throughout the day in 25 big cities across the country. What did we find? Well, as the old adage goes, crime doesn’t pay…but it sure does look like it’s working 9 to 5 (plus a nightshift) in some cities.

Before we get into the nitty-gritty details about when crime happens throughout the day, let’s clear the air about what our crime data is really telling us. You see, there is no uniform way for reporting crime. Police agencies in SF have a different system then the cops in Miami….so on and so forth. So technically speaking, what you’re really looking at here is when crime gets reported as opposed to when criminals strike. So with that prelude, here’s the scoop …

3AM: When the Devil’s Off Duty
According to the “Exorcism of Emily Rose,” 3AM is the devil’s hour, but backed by hundreds of thousands of data points over a bunch of cities, we disagree. Judging by the volume of crime at this hour, it looks pretty safe to us.

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