How to choose the right location for your first home

How to choose the right location for your first home

You’ve decided it’s time to buy your own home. But where are you going to live?

Some questions to consider:

  • City or country: do you want to be in a vibrant, urban location or somewhere quieter?
  • How long will it take to get to work? And crucially, what’s rush hour traffic like?
  • How close do you want to be to your family and friends?
  • Do you have kids or are planning to have them? If so, consider proximity to schools – you can check catchment areas with the local authority. Get down to the nuts and bolts: how long it would take you each day to do the school run?
  • What local amenities are there and how far will you have to travel to get to them? Consider, for example, how important it is to you to have your favourite supermarket within easy reach.
  • If you’re working from home, is fast broadband available in the area?
Where can you afford to live?

Be realistic about what you can afford; you do not want to over-stretch yourself. For a start use our mortgage calculator to find out how much you can borrow.

If you’re looking to buy in Wales, you can use our Wales House Price Index which allows you to see where in Wales is affordable for you.

If you’re looking more widely, you could also try this useful BBC tool which 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. The map also shows which end of the local market matches your budget - you might, for example, be able to afford a property towards the lower end of the market in Bath but at the higher end of the market in Shropshire.

Get the feel for an area in person

Remember, lockdown rules apply in some areas, so check before you visit.

Once you have narrowed down your search a little, it’s time to get out there. While the internet can be really helpful, there’s nothing like getting a feel for an area 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.

Pinpoint exactly where you want to live

Don’t forget to use sites like Rightmove, you can register to receive emails whenever properties are listed for sale in very specific search areas.

Once you’ve found an area which you feel is right for you, then start considering exactly where would be perfect for your aspirations and budget. Bear in mind that prices can vary considerably, even street by street.

Think about the long-term

A house isn’t a short-term investment. Try and take a long-term view as moving houses isn’t cheap and you don’t want to get itchy feet just months after moving day.

Consider if you can you see yourself still living there in five years? Does it have a home office? Is having an outdoor space more important than ever?

Also, it’s worth considering whether the property you’re moving into has potential to increase in value over the long- term. Find out, for example, if the local authority is planning to regenerate the local town centre, or investment in transport.

What else to consider

As well as ticking off your list of desirable features in an area, take some time to look into the not-so-desirable aspects. Such as:

  • 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 consider also if there are any planned changes to the area that could negatively affect you.

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Try renting first

Buying a house is a massive commitment. So, if you’re not totally sold on an area or don’t know it very well, then why not try before you buy? You could do this by renting a property as close to your desired location as possible, enabling you to really get a feel for the area and the people who live there.

Click on the sections below to explore what you need to know at each stage of your home buying journey:

Couple looking outside

Buying >

Woman moving with the help of friends

Moving >

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