Choosing the right location is sometimes more important than selecting the right style of property. Where you live has a big impact on the lifestyle of everyone in the home.
If the people in your household go out a lot locally, to the shops, pubs, leisure centres or other amenities, they’ll want to be able walk or have an easy drive. An edge of town setting is probably better for you than a home in the middle of the countryside, however idyllic it seems. Similarly, a regular commuter needs to consider the ease of their journey. Is it easy to reach the station? Will your car be crawling across a congested town centre twice a day to get to the main route out? What are the bus routes like?
Traffic is a major issue that can often be overlooked, because we tend to view properties at the weekend. Visit the location at different times of the day and on weekdays as well as Sundays. Rush hour can turn the quietest road into a noisy race track. Speed-reducing humps in the road are a telltale sign that it is a rat run for passing traffic. However, there can be other causes: a popular venue for car boot sales could mean there’s a queue of vehicles outside your front door on Sunday mornings. Shift patterns in local factories, or being near a school, can cause sudden gluts of traffic – fine if you’re always out, but a nuisance if that’s when you often start or finish your journeys.
Heavy local traffic is noisy, but there are plenty of other sources of noise: a seemingly peaceful pub might have loud music and extended licence, which means your road resonates like a disco at midnight. It’s not fun trying to work or rest at home against a pounding background of heavy machinery from a factory or garbage.
If you are moving to an area you don’t know, the best source of information is local people. So visit the area, pop into shops, pubs and information offices, if they have them, and ask, for example, what it’s like to live there, which are the best areas, what the crime rate is like. You can ask to be sent copies of the local newspaper (they may take a small charge), and internet searches may well find local community websites, which will give you many insights. Good estate agents should be able to give you a fair briefing, too.
You can get a very good if you live close to the border of an area with very good amenities and schools. The property will cost less, the council tax is likely to be lower, but you will benefit from good services. If choice of school is an important factor in your location, check the catchment area and the policy and availability of places – you can live in a catchment area, but still be denied a place if the school or a certain year group is full.