Are you looking to move house and wondering how to decide where to live? Figuring out and narrowing down the options can be a daunting task. However, with careful planning and research, and by ironing out your priorities and preferences, you can find a location that meets your needs and enhances your quality of life.
How to Decide Where to Live Based on Budget
Whether you’re taking out a mortgage or buying with cash, before embarking on a search for a home you should fully appreciate the costs attached to buying a house, such as legal fees, survey fees, and stamp duty, which is heavily regulated and can be complex.
You should factor in ongoing financial commitments such as commuting costs, utility bills, insurance and maintenance fees, which can vary depending on the location and type of property you buy.
It’s also important to consider the possibility of changes in mortgage rates or your future financial situation and perhaps choose a property that allows for some flexibility.
Once you know what monies will be available to buy the property, you can start thinking about where to live.
You should start by considering places you want to be within a certain distance or travelling time of. You may want to be within an hour’s train journey of the office, have access to a beach within a 45-minute drive and be able to be with family within 90 minutes. The overlapping area, where all of these places can be accessed within the desired timeframes, is your basic search area.
Another example may be that you work from home, want to be within a 90-minute train journey of central London, and within an hour’s drive of an international airport. This will result in a few basic search areas around London for you to consider.
Refine the Search Area
Do you need regular access to public transport? Are you happy to drive everywhere or do you want to be able to walk to a village shop and pub? Perhaps you want a more urban lifestyle and be able to walk to a selection of shops, coffee shops and restaurants?
Deciding what lifestyle you’d like to lead will allow you to focus on locations that will provide that lifestyle, and not waste time considering areas that ultimately won’t work.
What you want versus what you need
As buying agents, when we guide clients on how to decide where to live, we help them define their priorities and preferences.
If you were to write a list of what you want your new house and neighbourhood to have, you would end up with a long list and an unachievable search brief.
Instead, write a list of what you actually need from your new home; this should be very short and consist of your top priorities. You may find this reduces the suitable search areas even further, because some areas are unaffordable, or simply don’t have certain types of properties.
For example, perhaps you have, or anticipate having, mobility constraints, and decide that single storey living in a bungalow is a top priority. Bungalows make up a very low percentage of all property types, so locations with a supply of bungalows are not common.
Likewise, if a garage is essential for a prized classic car, a town or city suburb with predominantly Georgian and Victorian houses and a lack of parking is not the place to look, whatever your budget.
Education and Quality of Schools
If you have school-age children who will need to move school, once you know your basic search areas that provide the amenities and house types you need, the school search should come before the house search.
Many schools, especially good ones, are oversubscribed and some year groups do not have any availability. Most schools also have strict catchment areas, or a policy where a sibling of an existing pupil will be given priority for a place before other children.
Researching the local schools and their performance records on sites such as Snobe may provide valuable insight into the education system in the area. This can be done through online resources or you could engage an education consultant.
The availability of public transport, good road networks, and easy parking both at home and in town centres, can significantly impact your decision on how to decide where to live.
When it comes to public transport, it’s important to consider the frequency of buses, trains, and trams, as well as the routes they take, whether they’re direct or involve a change, and, of course, the cost.
Assess the road network for traffic flow and congestion during peak hours to ensure that the commute to work or school is manageable.
Having a Support Network
Having friends or family members close by can provide an invaluable support network. Whether it’s helping with child or pet care, or providing a listening ear, having people we can rely on nearby can make a big difference to our mental health and wellbeing.
Sometimes a move to a completely new area is needed, so finding a group of like-minded people may be important, be this at a church, a sports club, or through volunteering.
Spend Time in the Area Before Deciding Where to Live
Before making your final decision, try to spend some time in your chosen area to get a feel for the neighbourhood and community. Visit the local shops, restaurants, and recreational amenities, and observe the traffic and noise levels.
Rent Before You Buy?
Renting a property in an area before deciding where to live may be a good idea. The fees and taxes attached to buying a house are extremely expensive, so renting first will allow you to get a feel for the area before making a costly mistake.
Completing on a house purchase can sometimes be delayed, especially if there’s a chain, so if the timing of the move needs to coincide with the start of term, or the start date of a new job, renting in the area can be a useful short-term solution.
How to Decide Where to Live
For more information about how to decide where to live, our services and to speak with a member of our team regarding your property search, please contact us.