Property search: How to find the right home for you

This guide will help you decide where you want to live, and how to find the right home for you.

There’s thousands of properties out there. And without knowing what you want, you could waste hours on your new house search.

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 on that list are the things that you absolutely will not compromise on.

When you've written your property wish list, use it in your search. And bring it along with you to any house viewings you arrange in the future.

But be realistic. It’s likely that no property is going to have everything you want.

Checklist for choosing the right house

  1. How much can you afford?
  2. How many bedrooms do you need?
  3. Do you want a garden?
  4. Does the age of the property matter?
  5. What type of property do you want?
  6. How much parking do you need?

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 growing a family in the future?

Do you need enough room for a study if you work 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 a new build.

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.

Make sure you do your research to weigh up the pros and cons.

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 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

As with most things, the internet has made searching for a house much easier. Sites like Zoopla, allow you to search 1000s 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 the estate agent

Not every house listing makes it onto 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.

Writing a letter to the owner of a house

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 their house at that time. But if they are, you could get the home of your dreams before anyone else even has the chance.

Plus neither of you will have to pay estate agent fees!

Where to live: Location, location, location

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

When it comes to location, there’s some things you need to consider to make sure you find the area that’s right for you.

School catchment

You might not even have kids yet. But do plan to have them in the future?

Deciding where you want to send your children 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 your 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 in the area

When talking to people about a new area, everyone will have their own opinions of what makes 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 of the UK's police forces provide information online that allows you to view recorded crimes in an area. You might want to look out for things like burglary, anti-social behaviour and other more serious offences.

Having this information will allow you to make a reasoned decision as to whether it’s somewhere you want to live or not.

Flood risk

Your home flooding is something you never want to go through.

But as well as avoiding potential disaster, it's also important to check the flood risk on a potential home as it affects things like how much you pay for home insurance. And the value of the property.

You can check the Environment Agency for reports on whether or not the area you’re interested in buying a new home is at risk. Or check the Environment Protection Agency if you’re in Scotland.

New property developments

You might fall in love with a property over 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.

Daily commute

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

Do you know how long it will take you to get to work? An hour drive on a weekend could double in length at rush hour.

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

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Last updated: 5 August, 2019

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