We have all heard the term and watched the program on TV, but it’s easy to sometimes go with your heart rather than your head, particularly if you’ve found a good-looking house of your dreams with roses growing up the front and a garden with a barbeque out back.
Before your heart does finally take over, or better still before you even start house-hunting, you will do well to research the areas which will work best for you and your family.
Moving home can be expensive, and the more thoroughly you research the area you’ve pinpointed, the more likely you are to find somewhere you love and don’t want to leave. Here are some things that we have thought about that you should consider and investigate:
Set some personal objectives
Always set some clear objectives concerning why you are moving and what it is you are ideally looking for.
Obvious, and right up at the top of my list, is how good are the schools? Areas with good schools are always favoured. If a new school is being built or a nearby school has improved its Ofsted rating, properties in the catchment zone can attract a premium price. Keep in mind that catchment area boundaries can shift.
Nearby shops and facilities
Think about whether the area matches your lifestyle – for example, check for local restaurants if you enjoy eating out regularly, or gyms if you like to work out. Also, take a look into how many services are in the local area – could you easily get to the bank or a doctor’s surgery? Are the shops new, trendy and upmarket or is the town dominated by charity shops and Chinese takeaways?
How easy would your commute be? If you don’t drive, it’s worth researching how frequent (and crowded) any buses or trains are, and how much fares cost. If you’ll be commuting in to a city, fares tend to be more expensive the further away you live, but property prices generally get cheaper – catch the train and make sure the journey is ok.
If you are house-hunting at the weekends it is easy to forget how some locations change on a week-day! Living in an area with schools, shopping centres or popular venues such as a sports stadium or theatre can be a huge bonus. But it is worth visiting the area at peak times to check what the traffic is like – will you be caught in a jam every time you leave the house?
Being downwind of sewage works or having hordes of tourists passing your front window during the holiday season can turn a dream location into a nightmare. Talk to locals about whether there is anything you should be aware of.
Air pollution can have an effect on your health, on both a short and long-term basis. Is the property on or near a busy road with lots of traffic? You can find air pollution forecasts on the government’s UK Air website.
Spotting up-and-coming areas
A bit of a gamble and often a longer-term play is buying in an up-and-coming area. It can be a great way of making money on your property and getting on the housing ladder if you can’t afford to buy in better-established neighbourhoods. Although there’s never a cast-iron guarantee that an area will improve (or house prices in that area will rise), some tell-tale signs of an area on the up include thriving nearby towns: Up-and-coming areas often spring up next to places that are already popular because people are priced out of that location and are looking to move as near as possible instead.
If you can, spend time chatting to potential future neighbours before you make an offer. They may be able to tell you about any previous issues with the property. You could also check with the council to see if there have been any complaints made on that street.
Are there any planned changes to the area that could negatively or positively affect you? For example, shopping centres, parks or transport links could be good news for your quality of life and property’s future value, but they might also mean more traffic. Check the local authority’s website for planning decisions.
Other things worthy of consideration are:
- Crime rates – these are published widely
- Electric pylons – generally avoid these as they will put others off
- New-build homes – a few are good but too many could be a problem
- Local demographics – does it match what you want?
- Planning permissions – a good sign that people want to stay rather than move
- Regeneration plans – short-term this can sometimes be a problem
- New transport links – can add value
- Skips and scaffolding – can be a good sign of ‘up and coming’
Moving to a new area can be incredibly rewarding and nothing is better than spending time in the area you want to live in. Visit the area, or you may even consider renting first. Talk to people – estate agents, shop keepers, school teachers, in fact, anyone you can. By doing this you can build up a really good feel for the place. Good Luck!… and happy house hunting!
Ready to Talk to the Experts?
We’re here to talk through any questions you might have about finding the perfect mortgage deal for you.