Before you start searching for a perfect property, you have to decide where to live.
You don’t want to move into a rough area and regret it later.
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Why is looking for a new area difficult?
If you’re looking to move somewhere nearby, there’s not much to decide. But if you’re interested in relocating to another part of town, across the country, or buying a second home, making a decision can be a lot more difficult.
It may take some time to get to know an area well enough to determine if it’s the right fit for you, and many things may not be evident from a single visit.
The UK housing market is quite localised, so researching individual areas and streets is necessary to ensure you don’t make a mistake.
Choose an area you can afford
To begin, you need to select a location that you can manage to purchase the kind of property you want to live in. Figure out roughly how much you want to spend.
If you need to take out a mortgage, it would be wise to calculate how much you can afford to borrow. Subsequently, look at property websites such as Rightmove or Zoopla to see what you can find within your budget in different areas.
Where is cheap?
City centres are generally more costly than rural areas; the South is usually pricier than the North, and London is far more expensive than the rest of the UK, with costs being three times higher than in the North East of England or Northern Ireland.
Figures from the Land Registry for August 2023 in the UK confirm this.
Average price (£)
Yorkshire & Humber
East of England
Even within the same area, prices can be vastly different. In one village, the cost of living might be higher than in a neighboring valley. Likewise, one side of a street might be more affordable than the other.
Choose what type of area you want to live in
There are some things to think about when you’re deciding which area to live in.
Do you want a buzzing, vibrant place with lots going on? Or would you rather be somewhere more rural? Are you the laid-back type, or do you need more to do? Is it important to be able to walk to the shops, or would you be ok with having to drive for necessities?
Are there multiple shops and pubs in the area, or are you relying on just one? How long does it take to get to work?
And how close do you want to be to family and friends? Are there any community groups near you? Such as sports teams, amateur dramatics, or gardening clubs? What are the local stores and services like? It’s best to check out the crime rate, schools, transport links, and council tax.
What are the employment opportunities?
If you’re already employed, you’ll continue to work there. But what if you decide to leave or something happens to the company?
It’s important to keep career flexibility in mind. Avoid living in a place where the job market is limited. People with big goals may need access to bigger cities with more job opportunities.
If you’re moving from the city to the countryside, you might want to adjust your work-life balance or spend more time with your children, which may require employment opportunities in a nearby location.
Spend time in the area
Spend some time exploring the area that interests you. It’s worth investing time now to make sure you’ll be happy in the long run.
- Go to the parks, pubs, and shops.
- Do you feel like you could live there?
- What does the local newspaper say?
- How old or young, affluent or poor is the area?
- Are there a lot of children running around? Do you like that?
- Make sure to check out the local transport for yourself instead of just taking the estate agent’s word for it.
Consider renting first if you’re unsure. It’s better to rent a place in a village and find out you don’t like it than buying and having to sell in desperation a few years later.
Take the long term view
Unless you plan on relocating soon, it is best to take the long-term view. Don’t choose somewhere you will outgrow in a couple of years; instead, pick somewhere you can grow into.
People in the early stages of their careers have the potential to earn more money each year, allowing them to take on properties that may have seemed too expensive at the start. However, it is important to be realistic about future earnings.
It is also important to consider the long-term value of your home. For many, it is their biggest asset, more than their pension.
Areas that are cheaper than their surrounding areas are likely to be gentrified. This is usually the case unless there is a powerful reason they are cheap, such as bad housing, motorways, chemical plants, or post-industrial wastelands.
Trendy areas that everyone is talking about may have already peaked in terms of growth.
An area that is good value with good properties and decent transport links is a great option as local house prices can take years to catch up with the improved transport.
If a new transport connection is due to open in the future, prices in the area may rise above the average until the connection is operational. The downside is that the construction work could cause disruption and could be an issue should you decide to sell.
Do you have children – or are planning to have them?
When looking for a place to move, make sure it is suitable for children. Good schools are important, so use Ofsted’s website to find out how they are rated.
Your local council can tell you which schools are in the catchment area so you can make sure your kids can get in.
It is also a good idea to look for places where other families already live, as this usually means there will be lots of facilities for families, such as parks and play areas.
Know the exact streets you want to live in
Once you have chosen a rough area, drill down. Life can vary dramatically from street to street or village to village. Speak to estate agents to find out more because they know the local area and its variations.
If you are moving to a city:
- Consider that one side of a suburb could be very different from another.
- Five minutes to the bus stop may not seem like much, but it can make a difference when you make the journey to work every day.
- Living close to a noisy pub is a different experience from living a few streets away.
- One side of a street could be in the catchment area of a school, while the other side is not.
- In London, council tax can vary widely from one side of the street to the other.
If you are looking to buy in the countryside:
- It is important to compare the area to nearby villages.
- Consider public transport, the distance to good schools and how far away your workplace is.
- Don’t forget to check if there is a train station nearby, and if you’re a gym fan, investigate if there is one nearby or if you need to buy equipment.
Deciding where to live can be a time-consuming process. Luckily, we are here to help make it easier for you.
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