Column: Simon Gerrard on choosing the right area to live in
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Good fences make good neighbours goes the saying, but fellow residents can have an impact on the enjoyment of your home. North London estate agent Simon Gerrard shares his tips for finding the perfect location.
Moving house is exciting, and rightly so! The idea of getting your first foot on the housing ladder, or working your way up it, can be thrilling, but it’s important to really know the area that you are putting down roots in. It is true that the majority of people stay within the area that they or their family already live in, although certain enclaves and individual neighbourhoods can have different feels and amenities.
Different people at different stages of life will, more often than not, require different amenities. For example, it may be important for working professionals to be near good transport links, where as young families may look to be closer to schools and open spaces.
Getting on with the people around you will contribute to your happiness, so how can you avoid putting down roots in an area that may fall short of what you need in the coming years? Here are a few key tips to help make sure you aren’t left wishing you never moved in the first place.
Visit at all hours
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Visiting the area at different times of the day and throughout the week is a good way to gain a thorough perspective of any neighbourhood. Plan trips after the kids have been dropped at school and during evening rush hour to gain an idea of how the area changes throughout the day. Get to know whether the neighbourhood quietens down at weekends, becomes a party destination or whether parking becomes particularly tricky on different days.
Assess the local amenities
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The surrounding amenities will give you a good idea of who lives there as well as the area itself. When it comes to retail amenities, it is important to ask yourself how important the local high-street is to you. Do you tend to go out of town to do shopping or do you prefer to have everything you need on your doorstep? If a buzzing local high-street is important, it’s worth taking note of the overall nature and feel of the street itself. Are there many independent shops, bars and restaurants on offer, are there a few empty lots or is the area up and coming and undergoing change?
There is no right or wrong answer to these questions and will depend on your own personal needs, tastes and priorities.
Take note of communal areas
If you are moving into a flat, pay attention to any shared areas. While a rickety lift and a few broken corridor lights may not be the end of the world for some, they can give a good indication as to how well the communal areas are looked after. It is a good idea to ask how these areas are managed; is it the resident’s responsibility or that of an external management team? If the building is managed by the residents then the condition of the stairs, for example, gives you some clue as to the type of people living there. All shared areas should be well maintained, clean and safe at the very least.
Peer over the garden fence
Similarly, if you are moving into a house get an idea of whether next door is well maintained or not. Neighbours can have a huge impact on your happiness in your new home so it is worth sussing out what they are like, even if you can’t meet them.
More often than not there will be a maverick on the street who allows their property and land to fall into disrepair, however it is important to look at the wider area as a whole, rather than fixating on one dilapidated house front or untidy garden.
Worried about planning applications?
It is definitely worthwhile knowing whether your would-be neighbours have submitted any recent planning applications. Moving in only to discover the family to your right is due to start work on a two-storey garage extension or are waiting to have a swimming pool dug the following week could result in a less than ideal start in your new home.
However, do not fret – your solicitors should do a full search of the immediate area and will report back to you with any recently submitted planning applications that are on record.
Use your agent
Remember to take advantage of your agent! It is imperative that you choose a reputable and professional agent you can trust. We recommend choosing a NAEA qualified agent, so you can rest assured they have a thorough and professional knowledge of the wider UK market. Ensuring your agent also has a good local knowledge of an area is invaluable as they will be able to seek out any hidden gems that could be on your doorstep.
Be sure to let your agent know your priorities from the outset and don’t be shy when it comes to asking the questions you want answers to. Under current legislation the owner of the property and their agent must disclose anything that may affect a potential buyer’s decision to purchase, such as structural issues or any ongoing disputes they are aware of.
Providing you have chosen a trustworthy and credible agent, they will encourage you to ask these questions, as it is these pearls of wisdom that help to find you your dream home.
Simon Gerrard is managing director of north London estate agents Martyn Gerrard