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Property search: How to find the right home for you

What to consider when buying a house

To help narrow your search, create a list of all the things you want in a new home. Then decide what things on that list are the ones you absolutely will not compromise on.

When you've written your property wishlist, use it in your search. And take it with you to any house viewings you arrange.

But be realistic. It’s unlikely that any property is going to have everything you want.

Checklist for choosing the right house

1. How much can you afford?

This is probably the most important thing you need to think about before you start searching for a house.

There’s no point wasting your time searching for homes you cannot afford. So work out your budget first.

Our first-time home buyer guide can help you calculate what you can really afford.

2. How many bedrooms do you need?

Do you need to take into account a larger family in the future? 

Do you need enough room for a study if you work from home? This is likely to be on more people’s wishlists in the aftermath of the coronavirus lockdown, with a cultural shift to working from home.

3. Do you want a garden?

A huge garden might sound appealing but is it practical? Do you have enough time for its upkeep? And if not, can you afford a gardener?

If outside space is an absolute must, would you be willing to compromise with a balcony instead? 

If a shared garden is an option, would you be happy with that? Or is privacy important?

4. Does the age of the property matter?

The thought of moving straight into a new-build home without the need to do any decorating or maintenance might sound appealing. But you will likely pay a hefty premium for it.

Would you prefer a period house with some character? Older houses tend to be less insulated and you might end up needing to spend more on repairs and upkeep.

5. What type of property do you want?

Is your heart set on a house? Or would you be happy living in a maisonette? Would you consider living in a bungalow? 

If you’re thinking about a flat, have you considered whether you’re happy to take on a leasehold property? Or does it have to be freehold?

6. How much parking do you need?

Do you need a garage or is a driveway enough? If you have more than one car, is there enough on-street parking available?

The potential cost of private parking could outweigh the other benefits of living in that property.

Property search tips & tricks

Once you have an idea about the type of property you want to live in, it’s time to start house-hunting.

House search websites

Sites such as Zoopla allow you to search thousands of house listings. Browse properties that are available to buy in the area you’re interested in and check the property value to see what you can afford.

Visit an estate agent

Not every house listing makes it on to Zoopla or Rightmove. And some homes are sold before they even make it online.

Chat to an estate agent to find out when properties become available to buy. They can also give you guidance and suggestions on properties within your price range.

Write a letter to the owner of a house

This is a little less conventional, but some people have luck in writing a letter to the homeowner of a property that they like the look of.

It’s unlikely that the homeowner is actually willing to sell at that time. But if they are, you could get the home of your dreams before anyone else even has the chance. And neither of you will have to pay estate agent fees!

Where to live: location, location, location

When looking for a property, there are things you can compromise on. But one thing you can’t change is the location of your property.

When it comes to location, there are some things you need to consider when it comes to finding the area that’s right for you.

School catchment

You might not have thought about children yet, but do you plan to have them in the future?

Deciding where you want to send your children to school is a major life decision. Some parents will even choose where they want to live based on school catchment areas alone.

If you plan on staying in your property for years, it’s a good idea to look at the Ofsted ratings of nearby schools to see if you'd be happy sending your kids there.

It’s one thing knowing which schools are desirable. But you also need to look at whether the house you’re looking at is in the right area. Before you make your decision on a property, check what the primary school and secondary school catchment areas are for the schools you’re interested in.

Crime

When talking to people about a new area, everyone will have a different opinion of what makes somewhere a nice place to live. What’s seen as a dodgy area to some might be seen as up and coming to others.

Make sure you do your own research. Most police forces provide information online that allows you to view recorded crimes in an area. You might want to look out for things such as burglary, anti-social behaviour and other more serious offences.

Flood risk

Flooding is something you never want to experience so make sure you check the property’s flood risk status.

As well as being a horrible event in itself, being at risk of flooding will impact the cost and availability of your home insurance. And if you are flooded in the future, it’s likely to affect the value of your home when you come to sell it.

You can check with the government’s website for reports on whether the area where you’re interested in buying a new home is at risk.

New property developments

You might fall in love with a property because of its amazing views. But could that view be blocked by a new housing development in a few years?

The local council has publicly available information on planning applications. Find out what’s planned in the area before you start looking.

The daily commute

Be careful of falling in love with a home that's miles away from your current job.

Do you know how long it will take you to get to work? An hour’s drive at the weekend could become two hours during rush hour.

If you plan to travel by train, have you factored in the cost of a season ticket? Will it affect whether you can afford to live in your new home?


17th June 2020