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Buying a home

Finding the best places to live

By Joe Elvin

Article 3 of 13

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Finding the best places to live

Follow our top 10 tips on what to check before buying a property in a new neighbourhood, plus advice on how to spot a high-value growth area.

Which? interviewed a range of experienced estate agents and asked for their insider tips on buying property. In this short video, they explain what you should check about a neighbourhood, as well as the house itself, before making your offer. 

Buying a home is a decision with high stakes, both financially and emotionally. In this guide, we explain:

Getting a mortgage agreement in principle is a great way to prepare for house hunting. For expert advice on finding the right mortgage for you, call Which? Mortgage Advisers on 0808 252 7987.

How to find the best place to live 

Moving house is expensive, and the more thorough the checks you make on the area you’ve pinpointed, the more likely you are to find somewhere you love and don’t want to leave. Here are the top 10 things to investigate:

Is the local authority planning any changes to your area that could adversely or positively affect your home? Shopping centres, parks or transport links could be in the works, which you might find appealing. Alternatively, you might discover plans for a new industrial project that could produce pollution or noise. Check out your local authority’s website under housing, community or growth.

If you have children, ask local schools about their catchment area. Some have boundaries that change from one year to the next, so always double-check if you have a specific school in mind. Also, look at the local authority website to see the distances within which children got into individual schools the previous year.

How do crime rates compare with those in other areas? Visit police.uk to search for crime maps by postcode and find performance data for your local police force.

Even if your home doesn’t boast water views, it can be worth checking to see whether you’re at risk of flooding. Sometimes floodplains can extend kilometres inland, due to the geography of the local area. You can check your home’s risk of flooding on the UK government’s flood maps.

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 if they have an impact on the price or time it takes to sell a property.

Being on the same street as schools, shops or popular venues can be a huge bonus. But it’s worth visiting the area at peak times to check the traffic situation – will you be caught in a jam every time you leave the house?

Being downwind of sewage works, or having hordes of tourists passing your front window during the holiday season, can turn an idyllic location into an ordeal. Check to see if there are factors nearby that might influence your enjoyment of the property.

If you can, spend time chatting to potential future neighbours before you make an offer. They may also give you insight into any previous issues with the property. Also, check with the council to see if there have been any complaints made in that street.

Consider how many services are in the local area – can you easily access supermarkets, banks or hospitals? This may be particularly important if you have a medical condition that requires care. Also take into account your lifestyle – would you like to be able to walk to a nearest gym, or the local pub?

Property investment hotspots: how to spot a high-value growth area 

In this short video, property expert Tracy Kellett, a former estate agent who now owns property search company BDI Home Finders, shares her insider tips on finding property hotspots.

Although there’s never a cast-iron guarantee that an area will improve (or its house price values rise), some tell-tale signs that an area is on the up include:

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.

When new-build 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.  

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 is more likely to grow in value in a major city than in an area that skews towards families with children.

It’s worth checking your local authority for nearby planning permissions. Some – such as a local supermarket or school – may boost your home’s value, but others could seriously detract from it, like a new industrial estate.

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.

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 add additional 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.

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.

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 zone boundaries can shift.

High employment opportunities in a region can boost prices. But keep in mind that this can also go the other way – if a major employer shutters, 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.

Check out our interactive house prices map to see price activity in your postcode.

Correct as of date of publication.

  • Last updated: December 2017
  • Updated by: Stefanie Garber

Your home may be repossessed if you do not keep up repayments on your mortgage.

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