Finding The Right House
May 8, 2006
The Americans have a saying: it's always better to buy the worst house on the best block than the best house on the worst block. This is because the least valuable home benefits from being next to the more expensive homes, and the most valuable home is harmed by the lower valued homes.
Keep this in mind when you're househunting regardless of whether you're looking for a flat or a house.
If you're buying in a town you already know, then you'll have a good idea of which parts of it you'd rather avoid living in. But if it's an area that's new to you then make sure you do a lot of research. Question the estate agents you encounter, by all means, but don't forget that all-important pinch of salt -- they have a vested interest in making a sale because of the commission they'll get from the seller.
Buy the local newspaper and read it thoroughly for a few weeks. You'll want it for the property pages anyway, but the news section will give you a good idea of important things such as how the council runs its services, and the sort of complaints the locals have about the area. You'll also be able to gauge the crime levels (and in which parts of town they were committed) by reading the court reports. Form an impression of what the local community is like. Websites such as www.upmystreet.co.uk, www.homecheck.co.uk and the government's www.neighbourhood.statistics.gov.uk are a useful source of basic information too.
In particular, if you're moving to a totally new area, perhaps because of a change of job, then do consider renting for six months so you have a chance to get to know your way around. Find out before you buy what transport, health care and school facilities are available. Even if you have a car, you're not ill and you don't have children yet, your circumstances may change five years down the line and you could be stuck where you are for any number of reasons. Check out the shopping, entertainment and sports facilities. Are they adequate for your needs, or are you going to have to drive 25 miles to get to the nearest cinema? It's also a good idea to visit the property at different times and both on weekdays and weekends.
Remember these are all things that a future buyer of your home is going to be thinking about too. You may be prepared to put up with poor services and facilities just because you've fallen in love with the house you've looked at. But how many others will want to buy it from you when it comes to selling your home?
Finally, pay a visit to websites which have detailed information on the prices that individual houses sold for (such as nethouseprices.com, ourproperty.co.uk, myhouseprice.com, houseprices.co.uk and mouseprice.com). These are well worth checking out before making any offer on a house although, as the prices come from Land Registry documents, the information is often a month or two behind the actual sale dates.