Where should I live? How to compromise when finding a property
Have you found that the type of property you want to buy isn’t available for your budget? Here, we suggest compromises to consider - and what others in your situation usually do.
Firstly, don’t despair. When we surveyed people who’d recently moved house*, seven in ten said that they had compromised on the property they bought, and 89% of those people said that they were satisfied with the compromises they’d made - so buying a property that doesn’t tick every single box on your wish list isn’t the end of the world.
So, considering how common the need to compromise is, why do people find it so hard to accept?
A frequent problem for house hunters is that they base their property search on a budget that hasn't been calculated in enough detail to get a realistic idea of what they can afford. When they've found their dream property, they often find that mortgage lenders are unwilling to give them as much money as they'd assumed they would get.
One key way to avoid this heartache is to secure a mortgage agreement in principle (AIP) before you start your search. To speak with an expert, who will assess your personal circumstances to give you an accurate budget to work with, and obtain an AIP for you if you want one, call Which? Mortgage Advisers on 0808 252 7987.
The most common compromises people make
Ask yourself the five questions below to find something that works for both your lifestyle and budget:
1. Has the property got potential for improvement?
According to the Which? 2015 national house-moving survey*, the condition of the property is one of the most common compromises that people make when buying. Of the 1,990 general public members we surveyed, one in four (26%) said they made a compromise on the overall condition of the property.
If you can afford to make improvements once you've moved in, even if you have to save for a while before starting, the work may well pay for itself when the time comes to sell as it will often add value to your home.
For example, older properties often have lots of small rooms rather than fewer large rooms, which isn't as popular nowadays due to the trend for open-plan living. Knocking down a wall between a poky kitchen and rarely used dining room to create an open-plan kitchen/diner could make a real difference to how suitable the property is for your lifestyle. One in five (21%) of our survey's respondents made a compromise on the layout of their property.
Extending is another key improvement you could consider, subject to space and planning permission. Property size was something that 19% of our respondents compromised on.
- Find out more: if you don’t have the budget or the need for major renovations, check out these 10 DIY improvements you can make yourself
2. Do I need that extra bedroom?
If you can only afford a two-bedroom house but you want three bedrooms, think about whether there are any solutions that could make a two-bed property work for you.
Do you really need an extra bedroom to use as a study? Perhaps, with a bit of creative thinking, you could adapt space elsewhere in the property or build an office in the garden.
It’s also amazing how many of us spend thousands of pounds extra just so we can have a guest bedroom which only ends up accommodating people a few times a year. It’ll probably work out cheaper to put guests up at a nearby B&B or, if there's space, use a sofa bed or air bed in the sitting room.
And, if the property you buy has a loft with potential for conversion, you could buy now and then renovate when you have the funds to do so.
One in ten (12%) of our survey’s respondents made a compromise on the number of bedrooms in their property. Meanwhile, one in seven (14%) compromised on the number of bathrooms and one in five (19%) compromised on parking arrangements.
3. Could I borrow or rent a garden?
If you’d hoped for a house with a garden but can only stretch to a flat, there are alternatives. Renting an allotment may be an ideal solution - but check waiting list times.
The freeholders whose communal space you live in may be happy to let you create your own garden area if you ask. Alternatively, an elderly or poorly neighbour who can't tend to their garden might love to share it with you to help with its upkeep.
One in five (21%) of our survey’s respondents compromised on the external space surrounding the property. This may be a savvy move, given that British weather means many people only use their gardens for a few months each year.
4. Am I being flexible enough on location?
Whenever you buy, a compromise between property and location is always on the cards, as property prices vary hugely from one area to another. One way to afford the lifestyle of a more expensive area without paying premium house prices is to buy slightly further afield (especially if it's an up and coming area with potential to make your money grow), or in areas previously dominated by council housing. These properties are generally built to a good standard and many are now privately owned.
It’s also worth being a bit more flexible about your commuting requirements. In London, for example, Savills' research estimates that properties more than half a mile from the tube or train can be 20% cheaper.
In our survey, a fifth (21%) of respondents said that they had compromised on their ideal location, while 15% said that they had made compromises which affected their commuting time or cost.
Meanwhile, 16% had compromised on surrounding amenities, while an almost identical figure said that they’d compromised on noise levels in their neighbourhood. Only 8% said that they’d compromised on local crime levels, while just 6% compromised on proximity to good schools.
- Find out more: check out our advice on investigating a neighbourhood
5. What help could I get with securing a mortgage?
If you just can't afford to take out a mortgage on your own, ask the local council or housing association about shared ownership schemes, which enable you to buy between 25% and 75% of a new-build or older property then pay rent on the rest.
If you’ve saved up a 5% deposit but are struggling to get approved for a mortgage, it’s also worth looking into the Help to Buy scheme, where the government will either lend you money or guarantee your mortgage.
- Find out more: for more impartial advice on mortgages, call Which? Mortgage Advisers on 0808 252 7987
Video case study: Kelly's story
Mum-of-two Kelly talks about the things she wishes she'd known about selling and buying a house in a competitive market, how to handle estate agents and the compromises she made to speed the process up.
In June 2015, we surveyed 1,990 members of the general public who had either bought or sold a house in the past five years. The group was based on a nationally representative sample of the UK.
Your home may be repossessed if you do not keep up repayments on your mortgage.
Which? Limited (registered in England and Wales number 00677665) is an Introducer Appointed Representative of Which? Financial Services Limited (registered in England and Wales number 07239342). Which? Financial Services Limited is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (FRN 527029). Which? Mortgage Advisers and Which? Money Compare are trading names of Which? Financial Services Limited. Registered office: 2 Marylebone Road, London NW1 4DF.