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Finding the perfect home

Scratched enough together for that deposit? Great – let’s go house hunting!

Estate agents window

Finding a place to live used to be all about peering through estate agent windows and pouring over newspaper listings.

Thankfully the internet has done away with these tiring things. It’s much easier to browse and shortlist your favourite houses online.

There are a bunch of different places where you can search for houses. Two of the more popular ones are Rightmove and Zoopla.

When looking at houses, there are two important things to look out for – the building itself, and the surrounding neighbourhood.

Missed a step? Check out Step 3: Saving for a deposit

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What do I look for in the neighbourhood?

Looking for the right area to live in is like looking for a new car – your options can change wildly depending on your particular needs.

If you’re a new parent, you might want to be within the catchment area of a good primary school.

If you commute to work, an area with good bus and rail links is a must. Don’t just rely on one or the other, though. One delayed train can cause all sorts of headaches if you’re not prepared.

Depending on what kind of social life you have, it might be worth checking the “what’s on” events guide for the area you’re looking at.

It’d be a shame to move somewhere expecting a vibrant nightlife, only to find that the most exciting activity is communal brass rubbing in a barn conversion – or vice versa.

Be careful not to make too many generalisations about an area. Communities can be very different from street to street.

Pay attention to the local crime rate. Police.uk has a tool that lets you go down to street level and see the most recently reported crimes.

If you can, one of the best things you can do is take a day trip to the area and get a feel for the place.

You’ll get a good idea of distances to shops, how busy the area gets, and whether or not the place has a vibe that suits you.

What do I look for in a house?

Okay, so you’ve narrowed it down to an area. Now we need to pair you up with a house.

You can’t get a full picture of the house until you view it, but there are some things you can look out for that may help your focus your search a bit.

  • Floorplans – most online listings come with floorplans so you can compare the sizes of rooms. If you can, measure the rooms of where you live now so you can see how much bigger/smaller the new house is.

  • Age of the house – older houses might not suit your needs if you’re not inclined to keep up with maintenance. Conversely, a brand-new build might be completely lacking in character.

  • Storage space – you might have some baggage with you, so it’s worth looking if there’s enough space to store your stuff. Does the house have a usable attic or basement? How about a garage or shed?

  • Energy efficiency rating – a house might look nice, but with a poor energy rating you could be paying through the nose in bills and running costs.

  • Double glazing – adding uPVC double glazing to a house can cost thousands of pounds, so a house that has this already is in better shape. Double glazing should also improve energy efficiency and help block out sound from outside.

  • Council tax – tax bands can very between houses, so use the council tax lookup tool on GOV.UK to get a rough idea of how much you’d pay.

Using these tips you should be able to narrow your search down to a few houses that you really like the look of, in an area that you think would suit you best.

Before you run in and view them all, it’s time to have a chat with your mortgage advisor and get an agreement in principle.

Next: Step 5: Applying for a mortgage

Prev: Step 3: Saving for a deposit