My First Property

How To Properly Research A Neighbourhood Before Buying Property

The good news is that, with the internet, it has never been easier to research a neighbourhood, and find out all about the area you are thinking of moving to before you sign on the dotted line and buy a property in that location.

That said, the first thing to consider is that there is nothing like actually seeing it for yourself, with your own eyes. Therefore you should ensure that you view the property in as many different circumstances as you can: during the day, in the evening, when it is dark, in the week, at the weekends. That's because a property can look very different at different times: a nice looking alley can look sinister and attract ne'er-do-wells at night; a quiet residential street at one time can be parked solid with cars and very congested at another time, or pitch black and intimidating at night without street lighting.

You should also drive around the surrounding roads to get an idea of what the area is like: whether you get a good or bad impression there are sure to be a few surprises, and you want to get every possible surprise out of the way before you move in, rather than after.

You should do this at various times - as outlined above - to get an idea of the noise and traffic. If you park your car and wind down the window then listen to see how noisy it is. Find out how bad the traffic is in rush hour - if you are going to commute back and forth to work in the car then you'll want to know if the road that was empty on Sunday when you viewed the property has nothing but tailbacks during busy times in the week.

Try to get some idea of the neighbours and what they are like too - having a walk down the road and talking to anyone who seems friendly can be the best way to find out about the area and get a true picture of it - people are often keen to vent about any issues they have (eg neighbours from hell / student cars for the local sixth form parked outside their house all day Monday to Friday), or indeed tell you the plus points as relevant!

When it comes to looking online, you will want to look at crime rates in a given postcode: you can do this via looking at the UK Crime Statistics by Postcode at the following website: UK Crime Statistics By Postcode - if you find the figures are not very meaningful in isolation then compare them to a few desirable / undesirable areas near where you live to get a feel for whether the rates are relatively high or not.

You can easily find out about schools and public amenities nearby via the search engines and maps - searching for "schools in x" will bring up a list, you can research the schools, find out how close they are to where you live, and then find out how good they are through further enquiries and get a good feel for them by visiting the respective school's website.

Using online maps you can also quickly see visually what is where, how large the town centre is and how far away it is, where the nearest train station is and much more besides.

You should look at the local council website too to find out more about what is going on - for instance any imminent major developments, or road changes, and so forth, and check out simple things such as the different bin collections in the road / how many collections there are (eg general waste, recycling, garden waste) and check whether collections are weekly and so forth.

So there is so much you can find out about an area before moving there - this is just the tip of the iceberg outlined above in terms of research you can do - but by visiting the area beforehand a few times, using all your senses and talking to people - combined with online research via the search engines, crime database, maps and other directories - you can find out all the essentials about an area long before you move there.

Last update: 26 Mar 2015

More first-time house buying articles:

  1. How to Properly Research a Neighbourhood Before Buying Property
  2. Deciding on Your Property 'Must Haves'
  3. Costs of Buying a House
  4. Renting with People you Don't Know
  5. Paying a Deposit when Buying at Auction


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