How to find a new home that’s perfect for you!

Whether you’ve decided to wait until your house is sold, or start looking as soon as it’s on the market, there are definitely some things you can do that will help you to find a new home that’s perfect for you, once you’ve decided to move on from your current home. Whilst this information is UK-based, most of these tips apply wherever you might be living.

Picture of English country cottage with wreath on the door
Photo by Liv Cashman on Unsplash

Location and budget

You may have already decided on the area you want to look in, and you should also have a budget in mind. Think carefully about whether you really need to spend more money than you currently do on a home – there might be one in a ‘less desirable’ area, or an up and coming area that will cost way less than one where prices are at a premium. For example, I sold a house that was in a good location, and was also relatively new (less than 25 years old), and moved to a 100 year old house in a cheaper location that cost £60k less (which actually had more square footage, and more character). This enabled me to pay a big chunk off my mortgage, reduce the term by a couple of years, and still have money left over to make some significant improvements to the new house. And I love it – I’ve put my own stamp on it by making structural changes that I couldn’t afford to do in my previous home (although it did need it). Many property experts will say location is the most important thing – and it is important; I wouldn’t buy a house next to an industrial site for example, BUT don’t write off ‘cheaper’ areas without visiting them and looking at what they have to offer – you could find a new home that is perfect for you!

You might also be looking at buying somewhere that needs renovating – if you are handy, and don’t mind living in potential chaos for a few months while the work is going on, this can be a good way of buying a home lower priced, but in a premium area. It also has the advantage that you can design it how you’d like it, so this could be an option for you.

What do you need in a new home?

Think about how big your house needs to be – if you’re a growing family, then space is going to be very important. If you’re single, or it’s just you and one other person, less space is probably fine. Don’t make the mistake of looking for somewhere bigger because you have a lot of stuff – sort your stuff out first and declutter, and you might find you have enough space where you are! Plenty of resources are available to help you to declutter – try How to GYST here on YouTube – loads of decluttering inspiration!

If you are sure you want to move, think about what you are looking for in a new property – number of bedrooms, location, parking arrangements, space for a home office etc. I found it helped me to have a note of these (the Notes app is good for this) so I could keep them top of mind when looking.

Get yourself onto mailing lists and set up alerts on the major house sites like Rightmove and Zoopla. Put in the area you are looking in, the type of house/flat and price range and you’ll receive alerts as new properties come onto the market.

Have a look round the area – is there a particular agent with a lot of properties for sale? If so, get yourself on their mailing list or better still, develop a relationship with one of their staff so they think of you and give you a call when a property comes onto the market.

Viewing properties – what to look for

When you see a house that you might be interested in, look at it with your head and not your heart! It can be easy to get carried away and dream of living in a property that looks fantastic in the photos before you’ve even visited it (I know – I’ve done this!). However, and this may come as a big shock to you – the photos can be very deceptive. They are (usually – if the owner has done their job properly with preparing it for sale – see my previous post about this 😊 ) designed to show the property in its best possible light. Photos may be taken at ridiculous angles to make rooms look bigger, the room may not have much furniture in it – again to make it look bigger. Space is the name of the game – as well as location.

Look carefully at Estate Agent photos, descriptions, room plans and measurements. I once viewed a house that had an awful kitchen that clearly needed to be upgraded, and it was only whilst viewing that I remembered there had been no photos of the kitchen on the agent’s website. If there had been, it would have put me off – clearly a trick by the Agent to get people through the door. I have also viewed houses where the size of the kitchen looked deceptive on the floor plan, and in reality was tiny and unworkable. If you can, try and check the measurements beforehand against your own home’s measurements – seeing that a kitchen is 10ft by 8ft on a floor plan may not flag up an issue to you, but if you compare it to your own kitchen which is a similar size and you think is too small for you, it could stop you wasting your time viewing a house that wouldn’t be right for you.

If good schools in the area are important for you, make sure you check out the latest Ofsted reports for the schools in that catchment area. However, take care not just to rely on these reports – they can be several years old, and are only ever a snapshot in time. Head teachers and Senior Leaders that were responsible for that particular rating (whether positive or not), may have moved on since then and things changed drastically. Try and visit the school, and talk to parents whose children are there. Asking for opinions on Facebook is an option, although be prepared to receive wildly differing views!

Picture of two brightly painted houses side by side, one with a window box and bay trees either side of the door
Photo by Maciek Wróblewski on Unsplash

Is it important to be near to shops, or green spaces in your new home? Go around the area and check it out.

When you are viewing, take someone along with you. If you are buying with someone else, then obviously take them – but if you’re buying on your own, take along a friend. Preferably one that is willing to give you the honest truth about their view. However, remember the things that are important to them may not be to you – they might not like somewhere as it has terrible wallpaper – but you know you will be redecorating anyway so that doesn’t matter so much. However, they might pick up things that you miss, so it’s definitely worth having a second opinion.

Ask questions about the neighbours, the parking etc. I knew the house I was interested in was near a local primary school so I asked about parking. The owner said (truthfully, in her defence) that she didn’t know if it was an issue as she was out at work. It turned out it can be a problem, as it gets very busy and people don’t care where they park, including across my drive! I had to suck it up, and realise it didn’t matter to me so much, as the chances of me needing access to my drive at school pickup or dropoff times was minimal.

If you’re buying an older home, look carefully at things like the electric sockets and light switches – upgrading the electrics is an extremely messy job that will cost a lot of money. Look at the roof from the outside – does it look in good condition? Have neighbours upgraded theirs – this could be a sign that yours will need doing at some point. Having a decent, functioning roof is very important – especially in the UK where it rains a lot!

Are the windows double glazed? How old is the glazing?

Is the kitchen suitable for your needs? You can replace a kitchen, but again, it’s an expensive job. Same with bathrooms. That’s fine if it’s factored into the price and you’re happy to do the work – but if not, then you need to think carefully about taking the property on!

Photo by Im3rd Media on Unsplash

It might be important to you to be within a certain travelling distance to work – if so, then try your commute one day – at the time you’d normally travel, obviously!

Also, visit the house at different times – for example at the start and end of the day; also during the day if you are going to be at home a lot.

Look at the house(s) that are neighbouring the one you’re interested in. Are they well looked after? I found a lovely house that I would definitely have offered on, except the neighbouring house was in a terrible state, with decaying window frames, and an unkempt garden. With that, you don’t know what sort of neighbour you will have – and if they aren’t taking care of their home, that sends out the wrong signal.

The ’C’ word…..Compromise!

We all start off with a wishlist of our perfect home, and somewhere along the line we have to compromise.

No ‘new to you’ home will ever have every single thing that is on your wish list. For me, having a drive, three bedrooms and some outside space was very important. I had to compromise by buying a terraced house (with neighbours both sides) rather than my preferred semi-detached (neighbour only on one side). This meant that I don’t have easy access to my back garden (e.g. bringing in new plants, or having the bins there) as I have to use a side entry that is next to my neighbours house. It also means it’s more noisy than only having a neighbour on one side – but that was the compromise I was prepared to make, and I’m still happy with it.

It helps if, before you start looking, you have an idea of what you are prepared to compromise on – it’s been said that you should only compromise on the things you can change – for example, décor, kitchen or bathroom style. You can’t pick a house up and move it to a different area, so maybe location is one area that you aren’t prepared to compromise on. It helps if you have an idea of this at the start of your search.

Hopefully this has given you some helpful guidance to find a new home that’s perfect for you – comment below if you have any tips of your own!