How to choose where to live

Ned Browne

Choosing where to live, isn’t always as straightforward as we'd like. Here are some helpful tips for choosing a great location while shopping for a home

There are certain moments in life when you may find yourself free to choose where to live. This is often the case for first-time buyers and those entering a new phase of their lives. And having a blank canvas can feel tremendously liberating.

Before you get started with any considerations, a great rule to follow is simply walking around your chosen area.

Researching an area online is a good starting point—thanks to Google Streetview, you can even take a virtual tour. However, there is no substitute for walking the streets. That’s how you’ll find hidden gems.

 

Here's what to consider:

 

School catchment areas

For many people this will be a prerequisite. Living within a good school’s catchment area can hugely improve your children’s life chances. However, properties in such locations tend to attract a premium. For school performance tables, visit compare-school-performance.service.gov.uk

Of course, the league tables don’t tell the full picture. Ofsted reports are worth reading and there’s no substitute for visiting a school.

 

Transport 

Being close to a train, tube station, or bus stops, is not only very handy, it will also help if you ever come to sell. Also, if you need to commute to work, the length of that commute can hugely affect your quality of life. The type of commute makes a big difference too. A half-empty reliable train journey is infinitely more pleasant than a rush-hour sardine-like tube journey. It’s well worth trying the commute out in advance.

 

Do you feel safe?  

It’s vital you feel safe where you live. Getting the feel for an area doesn’t take too long: are children playing on the street/in local parks, are people going for a walk, is there litter or graffiti? Consider when the lights go down too. 

Would you be happy to walk home after dark? If the answer is “no” you may need a rethink. Of course, the perception of crime in the UK is usually worse than the reality. It is worth checking out local crime statistics though. 

Google: “crime statistics by postcode” to find a variety of websites offering this information for free; police.uk is another good source of information.

 

Regeneration plans for the area

If there is considerable building work planned in the area this may be very good in the long run, especially if these plans include improved transportation. But, short term, you may have to put up with noise, unsightly incomplete buildings and dust. You can find out what’s being planned by visiting the Government’s planning portal: planningportal.co.uk.

 

Up-and-coming areas

If you can’t afford where you would ideally like to live, look close by. Often under developed areas that adjoin smarter areas benefit from a spillover effect: gradually they gentrify. Provided that’s not to the detriment of the local community, that’s no bad thing. Look out for lots of scaffolding and skips. They are a sure sign of better times to come.

 

Mobile phone reception

Most people rely on their mobile phones, so having a poor reception is far from ideal. In fact, 4G (and now 5G) in some areas is a mandatory requirement. Check your phone when viewing any properties.

 

WiFi

This is another essential, especially if you work from home or want to stream movies/television. Uswitch have a neat tool that allows you to check broadband speeds by postcode.

 

Local amenities

It’s important to have access to such things as shops, restaurants, sports clubs, libraries, a doctor’s surgery, cycle lanes, pubs, a Post Office and places of worship. Moreover, such amenities help give rise to stronger communities. And that’s often the difference between a property and a place called home.

 

Sports venues

If you are close to any of these, you may need to be prepared for gridlock on match days. The same goes for any other large scale entertainment venues. Sometimes this will be a regular occurrence; sometimes it will be less frequent. Glastonbury, for example, is pretty quiet for 360 (ish) days of the year.

 

Flood risks

If the area has been subject to flooding in the past, you may find it difficult to insure your home. And, if you can find insurance, you may need to pay a premium. Of course, insurance is one thing: arriving home to a flooded property is another. That’s most homeowner’s worst nightmare. The Government publishes flood maps.

 

Roads

Being near to good road links is great; being blighted by traffic, noise and pollution isn’t. In more rural locations, good road links are vital. If you’re a city dweller, roads are often more of a nuisance. It’s worth looking at air pollution data too.

 

Access to green (or blue) space

This is especially important if the property is without a garden. Being close to a common or park is a big plus. As is being close to a river, lake or the sea (provided the property isn’t at risk of being flooded).

 

Electric pylons

These are unsightly and can emit annoying background noise. This may be of no concern to you, but it might put off future buyers if you ever decide to sell. Plus, there is plenty of evidence that nearby pylons reduce property prices.

 

Coastal erosion

This, of course, will not affect too many people.  But it may do in the future. With sea levels highly likely to rise over the coming decades, it is worth paying close attention to possible future issues. The Government publishes coastal erosion maps.

 

Research is essential it will help you tick the “rational reasons for buying” boxes. But ultimately it’s how you feel that really counts in the end.


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