How to find your perfect neighbourhood
Choosing the right area to live in is just as important as finding the right property. Here’s what you can do to find your perfect neighbourhood.
Work out what’s important to you
A lot of different factors go into making your perfect area to live, and everybody will have different priorities.
It’s important to recognise that you might need to compromise. It’s very unlikely that you’ll be able to get everything you want from a new area and property.
Try to make a list of the things that are most important to you and rank them in order of priority. This will help focus your search and make you think about what you can and can’t live without. Think about things like:
Proximity to work
Catchment area for schools
Access to green space
Town or rural location
Proximity to family and friends
Type of property, e.g. do you want a new build or a character property?
By highlighting the non-negotiable things, you can narrow down the areas you should look at more easily.
How to find your perfect area
Here are some things you can do to ensure you find the right new area for you and your family.
Work out where you can afford to live
The first thing to do is to understand your budget and only look at areas you can afford to live in. If you haven’t already, use a mortgage calculator to work out what you could borrow to understand your budget.
Once you know your budget, limit your search to areas that have properties within your price range. There’s no point in wasting time researching areas if all the properties are beyond your budget.
Online property sites can show you average house prices for specific areas or postcodes to help you narrow down your search.
Spend some time in the area
The best way to research an area is to visit and get a feel for it. If you don’t know the neighbourhood well, visit during different times of day to see what it’s like. Ask yourself questions like:
Is it busy at certain times?
What is the parking like?
What is the demographic of the area?
Does it seem safe if you have children?
Is there green space nearby?
While there, consider whether you can see yourself living there. Try talking to neighbours and locals to see what they think of the area. Would they recommend moving there? What’s good about the area, and what’s not so good? Most people are happy to chat and give their opinions.
Check out the transport links
If you rely on public transport, make sure the area is well connected. Check the local bus routes and the distance to the nearest train station.
If you commute to work, look at how long it will take. If you drive, try to work out what the roads are like during rush hour. If possible, do a trial run to see what the journey is like.
Look at the school catchment area
If you have young children or plan to have them in the future, research the local primary and secondary schools. On gov.uk, you can compare schools and colleges based on their exam results, Ofsted reports and financial information.
You should then see which school’s catchment area the properties you’re looking at fall in. The boundaries can change year by year, but you can see the relevant catchment areas on the local authority’s website.
Check out the local amenities
If having shops, pubs or restaurants close by or within walking distance is important to you, check them out first.
See how long it takes to walk to any local amenities and try them out to see if they meet your needs. If you want parks and playgrounds nearby, take your kids and see what they’re like.
Research the crime rates
Look into the crime statistics of any area you’re considering moving to. You can enter the relevant postcode police.uk to find out what’s happening in your area.
It can tell you things like the top reported crimes in the area and an overview of the crime levels over the last year.
Look out for high crime levels, and remember that high burglary rates could lead to high home insurance premiums.
Look into local authority planning
Check to see if any changes are planned in the area that could affect your decision to live there. If you’ve chosen an area thanks to the surrounding green fields, ensure there’s no new housing estate planned on them.
Some changes could be positive, like improved transport links or redevelopment of derelict areas. You can search the register of planning decisions to see if there are any plans for all new developments in the areas you’re looking at.
Consider up-and-coming areas
A good way to potentially get a bargain is to look for properties in an up-and-coming area. By buying in an area that is growing and improving, you could be part of the regeneration and potentially see your house price improve.
An area could be up-and-coming if:
There has been a significant investment in local improvements
It is close to other improving areas
Local transport has improved, making it easier to commute to big cities
The area has a young demographic
Remember to think long-term
It’s important that your new home and area can meet the needs of your current lifestyle, but don’t forget to think about the future.
Try to think about how long you plan to stay in your next property. This isn’t always an easy question to answer, but if you want it to be a long-term move, consider how your needs could change over the next few years.
Make sure the area offers things you might want in the future. Consider schools and parks if you plan to have children down the line. If you plan to retire in the next few years, think about what’s available to get involved in after you’ve stopped working.
It’s not easy to know exactly what your life might look like in five or ten years, but try to find an area that can grow with you, especially if you don’t want to go through the hassle of moving again.
Our expert says…
“What your dream neighbourhood looks like will be completely unique to you, so spend some time thinking about what you need the most.
“Chances are you’ll need to compromise on a few things, but identifying the things you can’t live without will help your search.”