How to choose the right family home
10 April 2023
Purchasing your forever home can be a time-consuming experience. Finding the right property for your family to flourish is often a tricky and emotional process.
Below are our top tips to help you purchase with both your heart and your head.
Make a list
Be as extravagant as you like at this stage!
What does your absolute dream home offer? From basics like the minimum number of bedrooms, to desired features like a utility room or garage, right up to luxury wants - room for stables or a cinema room perhaps?
Rank everything on your list in order of importance, learning as you go what your compromises could be and what you could live without in the short term, ie. could a property with scope to extend offer a utility room or even Granny-annexe in time? Would a large front garden with scope for future conversion to off-street parking tick the box for now?
Once you’ve whittled the list down you’re ready for the next step.
Time to get your finances in order and set your budget.
It’s well worth seeking the advice of an independent, whole-of-market Mortgage Broker at this stage. They’ll be able to advise you on rates and mortgage products available to you and help you set a budget that makes your home affordable, including what taxes and fees you might have.
Overstretching yourself with a large mortgage could result in a home that feels like a prison if you’ve not got funds left for treats and holidays.
Including a budget for redecoration and furniture can be useful at this stage too, particularly if you’re buying for the first time or moving to a much bigger home than you’re already in.
Location, location, location
Now you know what you want and how much you’ve got to spend on it, the next consideration is where that home should be.
Often of paramount importance at this stage is school catchment area. Catchment areas for very popular schools can have a huge impact on property prices. Consider how up-to-date this information is, sometimes schools are riding on a reputation that is out of date and expanded class sizes and facilities that are well worn can mean that the school isn’t as desirable as you might think. Speak to parents with children at schools you are considering. Parent Councils are a useful source of information and schools host open days for prospective students where you can visit and meet teachers and pupils. If you’re choosing private schooling make sure you factor the fees in to your property budget.
Next up on the location list is commuting times; how long will it take you to get to work, school and to visit friends and family? What will the cost of this commute in fuel or on public transport be? Moving further afield can be tempting when you can get a lot more house for your money, but consider if the daily grind of a long commute would eat into quality time with family and friends.
With all these things considered, now is the time to get viewing!
If you have property to sell, get it valued and consider selling first to put yourselves in the best position as buyers and to have a concrete budget in place.
View as many properties as you can, don’t dismiss something on paper or online, bad presentation or poor photographs could be keeping you from seeing the real potential in a property. By visiting yourself you can get a proper feel for a home and see what scope there is to alter the layout or extend if needs be.
Once you’ve found something you like consider how it will be in 5, 10, or even 20 years’ time.
Will the school catchment still be what you want at secondary level? Are there any proposed changes to catchment area? Do you have space for more children or room for ageing relatives who might need to come and stay? What planning applications are there in the area that might impact how you feel about the house and neighbourhood in the future?
If you would have to move again as your family grows, factor in the cost of legal and estate agency fees and particularly Land and Buildings Transaction Tax, consider if the value of the property might increase enough in time to cover these things.
Speak to your property Solicitor
It is essential to appoint a solicitor with good local knowledge and meet with them face to face at the very outset to discuss your plans.
A good conveyancing solicitor will be able to help and advise you with the steps above, but once you’ve found something to buy, speak to them about their knowledge of the area you’re hoping to buy in and the best strategy for offering and securing the home of your dreams.
It’s always worth putting in an offer if you really do want it, even if you perceive there to be a lot of competition. You never know the position of the other buyers who might be offering too, you might be the best buyer even if your offer isn’t financially the highest.
Finally, as some may say, what’s meant for you won’t pass you by. So don’t get disheartened if your offer isn’t successful, there will be a better property out there for you!