I'm based in Southern CA but would like to look into other markets (for instance, Dallas/Austin TX or Phoenix ) to invest. Some of these cities I've been to maybe once or a few times, but I am unfamiliar with the intricate dynamics (crime, house hold incomes, neighborhood culture and trends).
I'm hoping someone can suggest some software/resources that I can use (hopefully free as well) that I can be better scouting which particular submarkets I should focus on. For instance, while I've been to Austin, TX, I haven't been to Riverside or Round Rock. Before I spend the money and time over weekends to fly out to these out of state markets, I'd like to be as best educated.
A great resource I have used here in Austin is a Facebook Group called Investor Underground. There are lots of questions asked about specific markets as well as available off market investment opportunities and case studies.
You don't need software for this, as much of the research and information can be found online. Google is your best friend here.
For crime, look at the city's police department website and they'll tell you where they report crime statistics to. You can search there and look at a map to help you avoid any areas with too much violent crime.
Household incomes and other statistical data like this is super easy to find online. Just google and boom you'll have it in less than a minute.
As far as local trends, neighborhoods, etc. that's what the forums are for. Simply hop on after doing some of your own research and ask "What are the hottest neighborhoods in Phoenix right now?" or "What kind of strategy is working best in Austin TX for you fellow investors" and so on.
The opinions and stories of the agents out here on the street working in the market every day will help you get the quickest grasp on that.
When you like what you hear and think you've chosen a potential market, make the visit in person. Nothing like seeing it for yourself. Plan meet ups with local agents, REIA groups and fellow investors. Best experience money can buy.
That's the best plan for educating yourself. It takes time, but it's worth it.
@Austin Mudd , I have a free resource I can send you. I spent a few weeks downloading and compiling Census Bureau data into a giant spreadsheet. The spreadsheet includes every MSA with a population above 100,000; I believe that hyped markets like Dallas and Phoenix (and Austin) have gotten so expensive that it's worthwhile to consider fast-growing smaller markets like Lexington and Fayetteville and Bloomington.
Shoot me a colleague request with a message like "Send me your spreadsheet" and I'll pass it right over. (We have to be colleagues for me to be able to send a file.)
When you start delving into individual markets, be sure to google "[market name] chamber of commerce." Most chambers of commerce websites, if the chamber is active, will have lots of information for businesses and tourists. It's not the be-all end-all, but it's a good start to understanding the lay of the land in a new market.