Get clued up before you move
Whether a particular property’s caught your eye or you’re interested in a move to a specific area, there’s a lot to consider before you take out a mortgage and buy it.
If you’ve got children or are planning to start a family, the quality of local schools in your catchment area’s likely to be a key concern – one we’ll address later in this article.
It’s also important to make sure you’re paying a fair price, know about factors you might not spot during viewings, and that you’ll be comfortable with your new surroundings. Here are a few ways you can check.
Find out local house prices
You might know the asking price of the property you’re looking at, but how does it compare to the rest of the area?
A popular go-to search tool is Zoopla sold house prices and values. Enter a street or postcode to see what other properties in the area last sold for, and approximate valuations for others. Or search by region and county, including heatmaps of property prices and whether they’re high, low or somewhere in the middle.
There’s also MousePrice.com and NetHousePrices.com, which keep records of the final sale prices of housing in an area. These are great for spotting trends in the immediate neighbourhood and finding out how things might change long term. Are local house prices going up, down or nowhere?
Check your area's crime statistics
Safety is naturally a really big factor in buying a home – and that means checking out what crimes have been committed in the area. Your best bet is to enter your postcode on Police.uk.
Their website will let you see the local police station and the number of crimes committed nearby. The website also lists the type of crime – meaning you know if that pub around the corner is going to be a problem or not.
Wherever you eventually move to, remember you’ll need home insurance to protect the property and its contents.
Check if anyone's planning building works
Find out if next door are planning a two-storey extension on their garage.
Visit the government’s planning portal and search for any developments that are planned near you. It may prevent a nasty surprise later on.
The local council may have its own planning portal that will inform you of any uilding work being planned. The converse is also good to know - if something has been built but the correct planning approval hasn't been sought, this could become your legal responsibility as the future homeowner.
Find out if there's traffic noise
That property near an A-road may have seemed relatively quiet during that Sunday afternoon viewing – but what’s it like during Friday rush hour?
You can check official government-produced traffic noise maps for big parts of all countries in the UK. All you have to do is enter the property’s postcode to see how noisy an area is:
You can filter by road, rail and air – so you can also discover if that flight path or train line is going to be driving you round the bend.
Research your neighbourhood
If you want to get a sense of what an area’s like – and you’re too shy to knock on people’s doors – you can grab a neighbourhood summary from the Office for National Statistics.
These profiles really get into detail. You can find out about age range, life expectancy, education and housing. There’s a lot there you can use to find out whether it’s going to be somewhere you want to live one day.
Look on Street View
If you forget to explore the surrounding area when you’re viewing a property, just use Street View on Google Maps to have a look around.
Enter the postcode to zoom into the right part of the map. Then drag the yellow figure in the bottom right to the correct street if you’re using a desktop or laptop computer, or choose the Street View option on your mobile device.
It’s especially useful for getting a feel for an area before you go on a viewing – that way you know if the area is really as nice as the photos on the estate agent’s website.
There's also the handy tool FixMyStreet.com, where people report anything that needs sorting in their area – like potholes, fly-tipping or abandoned cars – and whether it's been resolved by the council, or if locals had to sort it out themselves.
Assess the flood risk
If you know you’re in an area prone to flooding – or if you have absolutely no idea – it’s worth finding out.
You can check details such as the long-term flood risk in an area, how close it is to nearby flood defences, as well as any current alerts, on these sites for different parts of the UK:
If it does turn out you’re in a flood-risk area, you may also be able to pay for a more detailed report on the flood risk there.
Some of the potential risks - such as flood risks - will be included in a building survey if you choose to get one of these. Speak to your surveyor about what is and isn't included in their report.