You may go into house hunting with an eye on what you can get per square meter or moving to where the biggest garden will be, but the old estate agent’s favourite phrase still rings so true when buying houses – it’s all about location, location, location!
Even if location is at the heart of your thinking, are you thinking strategically about the long game and working out if it will be a desirable location for others when the time comes for you to sell?
What might make an area desirable to you as well as others needs thought – after all, while you might be very happy living opposite a busy pub, for example, that’s not necessarily going to go for everyone.
So, assuming you already know the broad area you are interested in – down to the town or borough, perhaps, or a certain radius, it’s time to drill down into the details.
Here are some things to investigate and consider:
Areas of regeneration can be goldmines if you’re smart about it and look at where councils have granted bids for new transport links, parks, high street investment/shopping centres, etc.
Spotting an up-and-coming area and getting in while prices are still reasonable can certainly maximise your future equity.
Visit the local council website and look for recent planning decisions and allocations of town and conurbation funds. The future potential of the neighbourhood will be important if you’re anything like the average person who moves home eight times in their life.
Make sure you consider your current lifestyle. Do you want to be near the shops, gym, school, city links? Do you want to live somewhere coated in cultural and artistic spaces?
Sometimes making a list of the things you need and the kinds of amenities you use and then sorting them into priority order can help with the decision making.
How far are you from the transport links needed? Not just for you now, but those you might need in the future and what would be desirable to others. Could access out of town or to a motorway be handy? Or are there routes out of the area without too many speed bumps, junctions or areas of congestion?
Also, thinking through how different buyers might use transport can get you into the mindset of future potential buyers in the area you’re considering. Is it cycle-friendly? What about families with buggies wanting to go everywhere on foot, or drivers who need access to good road links?
Check out local schools – even if you don’t have children and aren’t planning on starting a family, the next person to buy it may do.
It’s easy to find what catchment you fall into by searching on the Government Ofsted website and you can search by areas or postcodes for good and excellent schools locally.
If you’re not a local visit the area a few times – on different days and at different times of the day – to see how busy or noisy it is. Check out how well people take care of their properties and the types of vehicles in the area. If it looks unloved, that may be a warning sign.
Other factors to consider
When you get as far as looking at individual houses, consider the potential to extend. Have a look at other properties on the same street (using Google maps street view) and see if extensions are commonplace.
From the road you might also be able to see if people have been granted planning permission for loft conversions or other significant refurbishments.
If you’re buying an apartment you may want to investigate the cladding situation before you buy, and find out about access to any outdoor roof terrace or shared gardens.
And always work within your budget, but have a healthy cynicism – if a house is at a price that looks too good to be true, it probably is, so be objective and ask the right questions.
Location is probably the first consideration for most people starting the process of house hunting – it’s likely that’s true for you, as well – so it pays to be sure your new home is in a location that will be desirable when you come to sell it.
Let’s face it, you can change the décor in a house, you can renovate and build on it (with the right permissions), but the location? The location is the constant, so make sure it’s a good one!