Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Choosing where to live: What to think about when planning a move

What couldn't you live without in your local area?

Advice on moving home tells you to look not just for a home that suits, but an area that suits too. You need to think about what you need: shops, leisure, schools, work, and people. It will vary for everyone.

I love watching Grand Designs LINK, but most of the people on it are presented as if they have no considerations other than their fabulous box house.

I have other considerations.

I have moved on from wanting a cute little gingerbread house with moss on the walls; with alcoves, original sash windows, and wooden floors. Experience has shown me that warmth and good storage beat damp and woodworm, crumbling chimneys, and bulging plaster. Your house has to be affordable, both now, and down the line, should inflation go up. This can be really hard to do, especially if you're buying, but renting is also worth thinking about.

Once you've set the parameters for a house, you need to think about the area. 

Distance to work, distance to school, a train connection, shops etc. All this is very personal and can be very specific.

For example, in choosing our current house I wanted somewhere within cycling distance of my husband's work, and within little kid walking distance of the best school. On top of that, I wanted a supermarket, a high street, and a train connection to the nearest city.

We worked out the best school for us by checking the HMIE website (basically Scottish Ofsted). We are quite academically focused, so HMIE is a good yardstick for us, however, we also visited the school in question and we liked it. The school had the biggest impact on where we could live, because it's oversubscribed, we had to live in the catchment area to get in.

That made it pretty simple. For our last move, we also chose the town based on the school. We tried to do the same in Suffolk, but in that case we were priced out of the town we wanted. In the town we could afford were a lot of other people in the same situation as us. Interestingly, they joined together and set up one of the free schools, which just got a great Ofsted inspection report.  The impact of a good school on house prices can be huge.

Everywhere we've moved, at least one of us has visited the towns before choosing a house, just in case! It must be harder, I imagine, in cities, where everything is more expensive, and schools are bigger. We're so lucky that my husband's work is generally in rural areas (and I'm so glad we've no plans of moving again!), so we get good high streets, rubbish supermarkets, and fair train services (except for in Moffat, which would benefit so much from the re-opening of Beattock station).

What do you consider when you're moving? What wouldn't you want to live without?

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