When I first got started in real estate, I worked exclusively with buyers relocating to St. Louis.

One of the challenges for these buyers was getting to know which were the nicest parts of town. You see, real estate agents aren’t allowed to steer people away from parts of town. The rules stem from years of discrimination against minorities, followed by passage of The Fair Housing Act in 1968.

One thing real estate agents can do is to point home buyers to factual information so they can decide for themselves where they want to live.

HotPads Income Heat Maps:

Hotpads income heat map

While income doesn’t tell you everything about where is the best place to live, it does give you a starting point in identifying poor neighborhoods where you might not feel safe and the wealthiest parts of town that are likely out of your price range.

Hotpads is a real estate website that lists properties for rent and sale. It won’t have all of the local listings, so its not the best place to search for homes.

However, it does offer heat maps which can really help you understand any city.

Hoptpads heat map options


When using the Hotpads heat map to understand which are the most expensive and least expensive parts of town, the first thing you will want to do it so choose the Favorites tab.

This will remove all of the properties for sale and rent off the map (assuming you haven’t chosen any favorites). The favorites tab without properties will give you the best view of the various communities in any city.

The next step is to chose a heat map. I like the household income map as a starting point.

The darkest red areas are the most affluent areas, and the light blue areas are the lowest income neighborhoods.

The other heat maps can also provide a lot of insight into picking a community.

  • If you have young children and want to be in an area with lots of playmates for your kids, then you’ll want to look for a lower average age.
  • If you want to avoid areas that might be a transitioning neighborhood, look for areas with low foreclosure rates.
  • If you want to live in a vibrant urban community, look for high density in more affluent areas or higher rents.

The income density and income heat maps could also be a great benefit to travelers. I’ve been on several trips where the concierge or Google map directions took me through a rough part of town.

Knowing which areas have extremely low rents, low income and high foreclosure rates could help you plan a route so you’ll feel safe in unknown territory.