How to choose the right location for your first home
Last updated: 20/07/2021
Figuring out where you want to live can make house-hunting for your first home easier. First off, think about some key things:
- Do you want somewhere vibrant and urban location or somewhere quiet and rural?
- If you travel between home and work, how close to work do you need to be?
- How close do you want to be to your family and friends?
- If you have children, will school catchment areas be part of your decision?
- How important are things like fast broadband and good mobile signal to you?
Once you've got your answers, here are some useful steps to follow to help you narrow down an ideal location for your first home:
It’s important to be realistic about what you can afford, and don’t over-stretch your finances to get on the ladder. Our mortgage calculator can help you figure out how much you might be able to borrow. Once you have an idea of your budget, you can start to find out what areas have homes in your price range.
And if you’re looking to buy in Wales, you can find somewhere with homes that suit your budget using our House Price Index which breaks down house prices in local areas.
If you’re looking more widely, this useful BBC tool helps you see where in the UK you can afford to buy, based on the size of your deposit and how much you can pay monthly.
Once you’ve narrowed down your search to a few general areas, it’s time to get out there. While the internet can be really helpful, there’s nothing like getting a feel for a place in person.
So, pound the pavements in your would-be neighbourhood, preferably at different times of day. Take photos and even notes. Better still, talk to locals and hear what they have to say.
Once you’ve found an area which feels right for you, zone in on neighbourhoods that suit your home-goals and your budget. Bear in mind that prices can vary a lot, even street by street.
Don’t forget to use sites like Rightmove where you can register to receive emails whenever properties are listed for sale in very specific search areas.
A house isn’t a short-term investment. Moving house isn’t cheap and you don’t want to get itchy feet just months after moving day. Can you see yourself still living there in a few years’ time? Could your lifestyle change in the next few years, and will the home still fit your needs?
It’s also worth considering whether the property you’re moving into has potential to increase in value over the long-term. While you can never be certain what will happen to house prices, it’s worth finding out things like whether the local authority is planning to regenerate the local town centre, or invest in transport.
Buying a house is a big commitment. So, if you’re not totally sold on an area or don’t know it very well, why not try before you buy? Renting a property for a short while could help you get a feel for an area and the people who live there.
As well as looking for things you want in an area, take some time to research the less desirable aspects. Things like:
- Flood risk: you can find information on an area’s flood risk at the Environment Agency for England and Wales or the Environment Protection Agency for Scotland.
- Air quality: go to the government's UK Air website for information on levels of air pollution.
- Crime risk: use the Police.UK website to find the latest crime statistics for a particular area.
- New developments: some developments could be a good signal that an area is up-and-coming and in-demand. But think about whether any planned changes to the area that could negatively affect you.
- Already got a house in mind? Here are some questions to ask before you make an offer.
- Use our deposit calculator to work out how to save a deposit for your first home.
- Download our free First Home Steps app for a pocket-guide to budgeting, planning, saving, and buying your first place.
- Explore more blogs in our First Time Buyers hub.