Learning an area

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I'm just getting started and I'm trying to get familiar with the different areas around me to get a better idea of what properties are worth, what rents are going for in various types of properties, etc. Right now I fee like I'm swimming in a ton of information. Does anybody have any advice on a good way to get familiar with an area or is this just a normal part of the process that I need to push through?

that's a great question, mathias.  i think driving around the areas at different times of day will help you get familiar with an area. also using craigslist to get a feel for the local rents is helpful too.  mls access will show you what properties cost as well.  this has worked for me. hope this helps.