If you’re moving to a new town right now, it may be hard to envision your life there post-pandemic. For example, if you visited Seattle today, you’d notice there’s no traffic, many businesses are closed, and even the iconic Pike Place Market stands empty. It’s the polar opposite of “normal” Seattle.

Scoping out a new neighborhood these days might not give you the most accurate feel for what it’s like to live in the area long-term. You can still plan a successful move, though. Just use the tips below to get a solid idea of a neighborhood’s new normal before you sign a lease.

Look up photos and videos of the neighborhood from 2019 and earlier. 

Communities can change rapidly, so don’t go too far back in time, but do a quick search for pre-pandemic photos of the neighborhood. First, try a Google search, then check relevant tourism websites, social media groups, and online forums. Find pictures from different seasons, and if you know the neighborhood hosts events regularly, take a look at those, too. 

Peruse local online communities. 

Many neighborhoods have Reddit or Facebook pages with thorough neighborhood guides for newcomers, upcoming event listings, and general discussions about the area. Lurk in the comments sections of these, or pose a few questions of your own.

Try to find a longtime resident and ask them a few questions. Ideally, look for someone who shares at least some of your interests so that you can get the most relevant information. For example, if you’re a parent with young children, you might want to talk to a local parent about after-school activities and summer camps. 

Look into how the neighborhood has handled the pandemic.

Some changes will outlast the pandemic. Check for any new laws, business closures, or trends that will remain in place as pandemic precautions lift — and take note of the community’s vaccination rates over time. The local city council’s website is a great place to start for this kind of information.

Scope out the job market.

Will there be jobs available nearby if you need one in the future? Things are probably going smoothly if you work remotely right now, but what if you need to find new work later? Check local job boards and networking groups, and look at job growth projections like this one from Glassdoor, which shows the most recent data from various metro areas around the United States. 

Have a plan to make new friends. 

According to Nextdoor, knowing as few as six neighbors has proven health benefits like reducing the likelihood of feeling lonely, as well as lowering depression and social anxiety — all critical factors as we ride out the pandemic. So whether you’re a social butterfly or a homebody, building community within your neighborhood is essential. Is there a local book club you can join? A café within walking distance? An active neighborhood association? If not, are you willing to say hi on the sidewalk or knock on a couple of doors and introduce yourself? 

Neighborhoods may look slightly different right now, but that doesn’t mean you should put off moving. Instead, just work to shift your guideposts for identifying whether a place is right for you.