Buying a house? – Check the local area first

Before you move to an unfamiliar area it makes sense to check out the things that are important to you.

These might include transport links; access to open space; schooling; traffic; shops and even the local pub.

Some of the information may be easily found online, but a physical visit might reveal a clearer picture of what life in a new area could be like.

Do your research (online)

The internet can tell you a lot about a district – how the local schools rate, whether there are good transport links, even whether the local pub serves delicious food.

Online maps and aerial views of your chosen location will show how much open space there is, but also reveal exactly where the bus-stops, rail stations and shops are. Check they really are within walking distance.

Are there home-based businesses in the street? These might generate a good deal of traffic if a business is using a courier to receive or dispatch goods. Is there an industrial estate nearby where lorries might be coming in and out?

Other home-based businesses might be just what you need, for example a pre-school nursery or dog-walking business.

Social media is also a useful tool when researching an area. Many communities now have Facebook pages where issues are discussed and events promoted. Check the local newspapers for any prominent issues.

You can also find out about crime statistics in an area by checking the Police crime map, which shows the number and nature of crimes by month.

To gain some perspective there is a facility to compare 2 different postcodes – so why not check your existing area against the new one.

Will there be more houses built nearby?

You might be choosing a house because of the green fields surrounding it, but with local authorities under pressure to provide more housing, it makes sense to check that those cherished fields are not about to become a housing estate.

Most councils now have a Local Plan in place, showing the land earmarked for housing. Some of these areas may not have houses built in them for 20 or 30 years, so for more immediate planning applications check the links to local planning authority websites via the Government’s Planning Portal and search directly for applications.

Check if there is anything that might affect your new home, whether it’s the next door neighbour’s plan to take down all the protected trees, or a new business starting up in the old mill down the road.

Is the house realistically priced?

Make sure you’re offering a realistic price by checking how much other houses have recently sold for locally. The information is available through the Land Registry or on Zoopla.

Visiting the area

Having checked all you can on-line it’s time to visit the area. You’ll need to make more than one trip to truly get a feel for an area, so make time to visit during the week as well as the weekend and at different times of day too.

Try to plan to visit that coincides with busy commuting times. That way you’ll find out if a 10-minute drive turns into a 45-minute crawl at rush hour. Is there room to park your car once you get home in the evening?

A walk round the streets will reveal much about a neighbourhood. Are the gardens well-maintained? Are noisy children running about uncontrolled? What about the park. Is there litter strewn about or graffiti on the fences?

Have a chat with local people, perhaps in the shop or the pub, to get a feel for an area, but be aware their opinions will be subjective and that your particular needs might be different to theirs.

It’s important to remember that communities can vary street by street and not make too many generalisations about an area. Only thorough research will help you decide whether this is the place to set up home.