Area research tool: compare house prices, Ofsted ratings and more
Before you start house-hunting, you need to work out which areas will work best for you and your family.
Our tool provides key information about local authorities in England - including the number of good and outstanding schools, average house prices and happiness scores - to help you decide where to live.
You can see how your chosen area compares to the national average, or compare two that you're considering.
If you're buying in Wales, Northern Ireland or Scotland, keep on reading for our tips on finding the best area for you.
How to decide where to live
Moving home can be expensive, and the more thoroughly you research the area you’ve pinpointed, the more likely you are to find somewhere you love and don’t want to leave. Here are some things to investigate:
1. Nearby shops and facilities
Think about whether the area matches your lifestyle - for example, check for local restaurants if you enjoy eating out regularly, or gyms if you like to work out. Also take a look into how many services are in the local area – could you easily get to the bank or a doctor's surgery?
2. Transport connections
How easy would your commute be? If you don't drive, it's worth researching how frequent (and crowded) any buses or trains are, and how much fares cost.
If you'll be commuting in to a city, fares tend to be more expensive the further away you live, but property prices generally get cheaper.
3. Rush-hour traffic
Living in an area with schools, shopping centres or popular venues such as a sports stadium or theatre can be a huge bonus. But it’s worth visiting the area at peak times to check what the traffic is like – will you be caught in a jam every time you leave the house?
4. School catchment areas
If you have (or are planning to have) children, check out the catchment areas for local schools on the local authority's website. Some schools have boundaries that change from one year to the next, so always double-check if you have a specific school in mind.
5. Local environment
Being downwind of sewage works, or having hordes of tourists passing your front window during the holiday season, can turn a dream location into a nightmare. Talk to locals about whether there's anything you should be aware of.
6. Air quality
Air pollution can have an effect on your health, on both a short- and long-term basis. Is the property on or near a busy road with lots of traffic? You can find air pollution forecasts on the government's UK Air website.
If you can, spend time chatting to potential future neighbours before you make an offer. They may be able to tell you about any previous issues with the property. You could also check with the council to see if there have been any complaints made on that street.
8. New developments
Are there any planned changes to the area that could negatively or positively affect you?
For example, shopping centres, parks or transport links could be good news for your quality of life and property's future value, but they might also mean more traffic. Check the local authority’s website for planning decisions.
9. Flood risks
Even if the area doesn’t boast river views, it can be worth checking to see whether there's a risk of flooding. Sometimes floodplains can extend miles inland, due to the geography of the local area.
You can check the risk of flooding on the UK government’s flood maps.
10. Crime rates
How do crime rates and types compare with other areas? You can find crime maps by postcode, as well as information on the performance of local police forces, on the Police.uk website.
11. Electric pylons
Even if pylons and electrical substations close to the property don’t bother you, they could put people off buying in future when you want to sell. Check with local agents whether they have an impact on the price or time it takes to sell a property.
Best places to live in the UK
The remote archipelago of Orkney, off the coast of Scotland, is the best place to live in the UK according to the 2019 Halifax Quality of Life Survey, scoring well for employment levels, small school class sizes and affordable property prices.
The top 10 places to live in the UK according to survey are:
|Ranking||Local authority||Why is it one of the best places to live?|
|1||Orkney||Adults living in Orkney are some of the happiest and most satisfied in the UK.|
|2||Richmondshire||The area scores highly for personal wellbeing, including life satisfaction and happiness.|
|3||Rutland||Rutland boasts the best exam results in England, with eight in 10 pupils achieving a standard GCSE pass in English and Maths.|
|4||Hambleton||The area ranks highly on life expectancy and satisfaction.|
|5||Eden||Located in the county of Cumbria, it has the best quality of life in the North West.|
|6||South Oxfordshire||South Oxfordshire offers the best quality of life in the South East.|
|7||Cotswold||This area has the best quality of life in the South West.|
|8||Ryedale||The area ranks highly for its low population density and small school class sizes.|
|9||St Albans||Residents achieve the third-highest earnings in the UK, at £1,112 per week.|
|10||Derbyshire Dales||Employment levels and earnings are above the UK average in this East Midlands district.|
Most affordable cities in the UK
Cities in Scotland and Northern Ireland feature three times each in Lloyds Bank's top 10 affordable cities list, which is based on house prices and average earnings.
|4||Bradford||Yorkshire and Humberside|
Research compiled 2 February 2019
You can use our unique mortgage deposit calculator to work out how long you'll need to save for a deposit in your chosen area. The calculator uses local house price data from across the UK to help you work out how much you'll need to save.
Where to live in London
London can be one of the most expensive places in the UK to live, but some areas of the city are more affordable than others.
You can find the average house price for each local authority in the capital in our guide to buying a house or flat in London, as well as council tax bands and train fares for each borough.
And if you're widening your search to the suburbs, you can also find the average house price, train fares and frequencies, as well as journey times for towns outside the city.
Video: estate agent tips on where to live
We asked experienced estate agents for their insider tips on where to buy a property. Watch this short video to find out what you should check about a neighbourhood, as well as the house itself, before making an offer.
Spotting up-and-coming areas
Buying in an up-and-coming area is a great way of making money on your property, and getting on the housing ladder if you can't afford to buy in better-established neighbourhoods.
Although there’s never a cast-iron guarantee that an area will improve (or house prices in that area will rise), some tell-tale signs of an area on the up include:
- Thriving nearby towns
Up-and-coming areas often spring up next to places that are already popular, because people are priced out of that location and are looking to move as near as possible instead.
- New-build homes
When new homes are built, they can sometimes increase the value of surrounding properties too. Be careful though – if too many new properties flood the market, the value of your property may go down.
- Local demographics
Consider who lives in your local area – is it mostly young couples, families or seniors? This could influence which types of properties are most in demand from buyers in the future. A one-bedroom flat could be more likely to grow in value in a major city than in an area that skews towards families with children.
- Planning permissions
It’s worth checking with the local authority for nearby planning permissions. Some – such as a local supermarket or school – may boost house prices, but others (e.g. a new industrial estate) could seriously detract from them.
- Regeneration plans
If a local authority is planning to regenerate a town centre, this is likely to boost the local economy and drive up house prices in future.
- New transport links
A new train station, network connection, tram link or major road is likely to make an area more popular with commuters - provided the transport links don’t generate too much extra noise or traffic.
The opening of new restaurants, cafes and shops, particularly if they're more up-market than other businesses in the area, is a key sign of an area on the up.
- Skips and scaffolding
This is a sign that local homeowners are putting time and money into maintaining or renovating their properties, meaning you may be buying at the start of an upswing in prices.
- Good schools
If a new school is being built or a nearby school has improved its Ofsted rating, properties in the catchment zone can attract a premium price. But keep in mind that catchment boundaries can shift.
- New employers or industries
New employment opportunities in a region can boost prices. But remember that this can also go the other way – if a major employer goes bust or an industry slows down, you may see your home’s value drop.
Generally, it’s best to buy in an area with a mix of employment opportunities and local industries.
- Find out more: check out our interactive house prices map to see price activity in your area.
Video: how to spot an up-and-coming area
Watch this short video for insider tips on finding property hotspots from expert buying agent Tracy Kellett, founder of BDI Home Finders.