Doing a drive-through of a prospective neighborhood is a good way to get a gut feeling for where a neighborhood is now and where it's headed, says Ken Shuman, a spokesman for real estate information website Trulia.com.
"Look at the neighbor's lawns. Look at the neighbors' houses," Shuman says. "Do they take care of them? Is there pride in the neighborhood?"
Shuman says every neighborhood probably has a couple of unkempt houses, but a pattern of neglect can mean a neighborhood's property values may be headed on a downward slide.
Shuman also has one caveat for conducting the drive-through test: No test is complete without a drive-through at night.
"You usually go to open houses in the afternoon or in the morning, so definitely drive through the neighborhood in the evening," Shuman says. "This is a big mistake a lot of people make, because they see it on a sunny Sunday afternoon and they think it's a gorgeous area. But you don't know what it looks like on a Sunday night or a Wednesday night."