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How to choose a location when buying a property

From school catchment areas to property prices and the potential to make money – choosing where to live is an important part of buying a home.

But that doesn't necessarily mean looking at the most expensive postcodes in town. 

The secret to finding the area that's right for you is to think about your lifestyle, what facilities and amenities are important to you and how much you can afford. You can then pinpoint the best location to match your needs.

Know what you can afford

If you’re looking to take out a mortgage to fund a property, it can help to apply for a Decision in Principle (DIP) first, before you begin house hunting.

A DIP gives you an idea of how much you could borrow, without affecting your credit rating

Knowing this can help you focus on properties and locations within your budget. You can also show it to estate agents to prove you’re a serious buyer.

Explore: Buying a property: How much could you afford?

Are you buying a home to live in, or a property to let out?

This makes a big difference to what you're looking for in an area. Our handy guide will help you prioritise the things that matter to you, or to your rental market.

If you're buying a property to live in, ask yourself:

  1. Do I want to be near a lively social scene?
  2. Would I prefer a quieter environment?
  3. What amenities would I like within easy reach?
  4. How easy is it to commute to work?

Explore: What should you look for when buying a home?

If you're buying a property to let, ask yourself:

  1. What is my rental market (eg students, professionals, families)?
  2. Which amenities are desirable to them?
  3. Are transport links important?
  4. Does the area offer what they need?

What to look for in an area

Now you're focused on who you're buying for and what's important, it's time to consider what different areas have to offer and whether they're right for you:

Desirable amenities

Whether it's a busy city centre, bustling town High Street or the local village, every area has its hub of essential amenities. The question is, which ones would you like within walking distance and which are you happy to travel to? Amenities may include: 

  • supermarkets
  • cafes, pubs and restaurants
  • petrol stations
  • shops
  • post offices
  • chemists
  • doctors
  • dentists
  • garages
  • libraries
  • gyms

Some less-than-desirable features

There are some things you may not want to live so close to. So it's worth finding out where these are located:

  • electricity pylons
  • waste treatment works
  • chemical plants
  • busy rail routes
  • main flight paths
  • high flood risk areas

Entertainment facilities

A wide range of entertainment facilities is often a sign of a thriving community. But it's worth considering how close you want to be with the potential extra noise and traffic from:

  • theatres
  • art galleries
  • restaurants
  • pubs
  • cinemas

Transport links

If you and your family need to commute to work and school, think about the convenience of being close to any of the following:

  • motorway networks
  • trains
  • tubes
  • trams
  • bus routes

Community groups

If you have a certain hobby or enjoy a particular sport, you may want to check if there are any organised groups in the area. These could include sports teams, a local amateur theatre, allotment facilities or a church choir.

School catchment area

Location has a direct influence on which school a child can attend. To find out more information on school catchment areas, visit the GOV.UK website.

Signs of an up-and-coming area

If you're hoping to make money in the long term by buying a property in an up-and-coming area, there's no fool-proof formula. But there are some classic clues to look out for:

  • niche food chains like delis, independent boutiques, coffee shops and cafes
  • new estate agent branches opening in the area
  • new major road or rail links
  • interest from property developers
  • regeneration projects by local councils