Things to consider before moving to a new area
Are you thinking about moving to a new area? They say that the home is where the heart is, but what if your heart doesn't know where it wants to be?
Whether you've secured a new job halfway across the country or want to move out of the city, relocating can be stressful. After all, purchasing a property is a big commitment, so you need to be sure that the area is going to work for you – at least for the foreseeable future.
Before you take the plunge into the unknown, make sure you ask these important questions.
1. Do the figures add up?
Unfortunately, no matter how much you like an area, you need to make sure you'll realistically be able to afford a property there. Before you let yourself fall in love, find out exactly how much you can afford by visiting an independent mortgage broker. You can then search the House Price Index on the Land Registry’s website, to establish average prices, sales volume and property types for a specified location.
It's also worth visiting the local council website to establish just how much council tax you could expect to pay each month.
2. What's the crime rate like?
Nobody wants to move to an area where their family won’t feel safe. Appearances can be deceptive, so a quick drive around the neighbourhood won't tell you everything you need to know.
Talking to locals, friends and colleagues who know the area well is a good starting point. They'll be able to tell you what it's like to live there and if they, or people they know, have experienced any problems.
For a more comprehensive breakdown of local crime rates, head to UK Crime Stats, an open data platform of the Economic Policy Centre. Alternatively, searching for the neighbourhood in Police.UK provides you with an interactive map, detailing the precise location and type of crime reported.
You can also find useful information about an area from the Office of National Statistics, on topics such as crime, health, housing and the environment. The site also gives you the ability to see how the area compares to the rest of the country.
3. Is there good access to public transport?
If you're not a driver, or don't want to always rely on a car, access to public transport is very important. You can check the closest train stations for your favourite properties on andrewsonline.co.uk. TravelLine is also a useful site, which provides you with routes and times for all travel in Great Britain by bus, rail, coach and ferry.
Simply type in the name of the area and then your desired destination to see a variety of journey options, the number of changes and the length of the journey.
Alternatively, the local council should be able to provide you with information about an area's public transport routes.
4. Are there plenty of local amenities?
The local amenities you require will depend on your circumstances. For example, if you're not a driver, you're likely to want a decent-sized supermarket nearby. Similarly, if you have young children, a neighbourhood doctor's surgery could make your life a whole lot easier.
Write down a list of all the local amenities that are essential to you, such as a library, dentist, post office or pharmacy. Whilst you’re likely to already know what you need access to, it's useful to have a checklist to make sure you don’t miss anything.
5. Is the area well-served by schools?
For most parents, the quality of an area's schools will be an important factor in any decision to relocate. To help you with this, we list all of the nurseries and schools closest to a property on andrewsonline.co.uk. You can then use the Schools Finder at Direct.gov.uk to view the full Ofsted Report for each school – a useful tool to aid your decision making.
Alternatively, you can access the School Performance Tables on Education.gov.uk for information including performance, characteristics and spend-per-pupil data. The local council website should also help you to find information about local schools, as well as their admission policies.
6. Is there plenty of entertainment?
Is it important to you that there's plenty to do on your doorstep? If you don't want to jump in the car every time you leave the house, you need to make sure an area has plenty to keep you occupied. Again, andrewsonline.co.uk will help kick start your research, as it lists the local attractions to a property.
For young families, a nearby park can be incredibly useful – all you'll need is a ball and a dry day to keep the kids happy. It can also be helpful to take a stroll around the area in the evening, to get a feel for the bar and restaurant scene. Note down the names of any you like the look of – a quick internet search will usually provide you with a number of reviews.
For more specific activities, your local tourist information site should be able to point you in the direction of nearby attractions. You can also visit Day Out With the Kids – a site which allows you to search for children's activities by postcode or town.
7. Is there sports and leisure facilities?
If you're a gym bunny, a local leisure centre will make your life a lot easier. It can be helpful to pop into reception and find out what they can offer and for what price.
Sports clubs can also be a great way to keep fit and make friends – try doing a quick internet search to find any that have a website. Alternatively, libraries will often have a noticeboard where local clubs and businesses can pin flyers.
8. What's the parking like?
If a property you're interested in doesn’t have designated spaces, you can't underestimate the value of checking out the local parking situation. What may start as a minor gripe could develop into a daily battle – especially if you can only ever park a mile away from your home.
Try driving around the area on different days of the week, at different times of day to see how easy it is to park. You may find that the streets are used as free parking for local shops at weekends, or by people who work in the area during the week. If there's resident's parking, you should clarify whether you're guaranteed a space and if there's a cost attached to a permit.
You can also visit Parkopedia to find local paid and free car parks.
9. Is the area on the up?
If you're buying a property, it can be useful to know if it's likely to increase in value. One way to gauge this is to establish whether the area or street is 'on the up'. Smart new shops, restaurants and cafes are a tell-tale sign that a neighbourhood is prospering.
You can also check the local council website to see if there is any planned redevelopment or new transport links – faster train links, for example, into a major city can have a dramatic impact.
Whilst nothing is guaranteed, any evidence of the above factors bodes well for the future.
There's no substitute for wandering around an area to get a feel for the neighbourhood. However, if you make sure to ask yourself the right questions before taking the plunge, you can give yourself a better idea of whether it will work for you. And, when you do finally find the perfect combination of property and area, there's no better feeling.