House hunting can be stressful and time-consuming. Creating a list of your must-have property features is a great way to stay focussed and organised.
What can your family not live without? What is lacking in your current home — why are you moving? By deciding what is non-negotiable and what you’re willing to compromise on at the start of the house buying process, you’ll be in a better position to act fast and negotiate when the time comes. This may be the key to securing your dream home in the current hyper-competitive housing market.
If you’re house hunting because your family has outgrown their current home, you should consider a few essential things.
- Space — what size home does your growing family need? Unless you’re happy to sell and buy often, consider your plans for the next five years. How much bigger is your family likely to get? Will you be adding any pets to the household? Do you have any elderly relatives who may come to live with you at some point? How many people need to use the bathroom to get ready for school and work in the morning? Will anyone be working from home often?
How much space you need is not only down to the size of your family but what kind of lifestyle you live (or want to live). If you live far from friends and your wider family, a spacious guest room may be important. If you love entertaining at home, a generous kitchen and a separate dining room will be high on your list of priorities. You might also want your children to have their own playroom so that you can contain their mess and noise! Discussing these needs and preferences with your family will help you get a clear idea of the number of bedrooms, bathrooms and reception rooms you need and the ideal amount of outdoor space. List these in priority order so that you all agree on where you can make compromises if necessary.
- Location — proximity to good schools, green spaces and local amenities are top of the list for many buyers seeking a family home. You might even be considering moving to put your child in the catchment area of their preferred school.
Even if you’re not moving far away, do your research. Spend time with your family in the target area and get a feel for the various neighbourhoods. Some may tick all the boxes on paper but lack the “feel” that you’re looking for in your new local community. Consider your family’s needs in the short, medium and long term. Are there good transport links so that your child can get around when they’re old enough without you having to ferry them about? Is the area safe? There are various tools online for checking police and crime reports, but one of the best ways to ascertain how safe a neighbourhood is is to walk around, check out the condition of properties, look for CCTV cameras and talk to local people.
And don’t forget to consider the needs of the grown-ups! Do the public transport and road links make commuting viable? Are there activities, events and facilities you need to live the life you want? Proximity to grandparents and other family members may also be an important consideration for parents of young children.
- The Layout — unless you’re eager to take on a refurbishment project, you should think carefully about how a property is laid out before making an offer. So, it has the exact number of bedrooms and bathrooms you want, a large garden and the local school has been rated “outstanding” by Oftsed. But if you have, or plan to have, very young children and the master ensuite is on a different floor to the kids’ rooms, is it really your dream home? Is there an open-plan living space with clear sightlines between rooms? Is there room to create a play space near the main living areas, such as the kitchen and lounge? It’s easy to overlook these considerations when house hunting. The realisation that the space is problematic often dawns after you’ve moved in.
- Your Family — create your ideal home checklist as a family, unless your children are very young. Even nursery aged children can have clear ideas about what they like and don’t like, what makes them feel safe and happy in a space and what they might want in the future, be that a pink princess bedroom or a giant slide in the garden! When it comes to second viewings, take the whole family to see how everyone reacts to the property. This will also help your children transition between your current home and the new one because they will be somewhat familiar with it.
Since the end of the first COVID lockdown in May 2020, there has been a soaring demand for larger family properties. Many people are spending more time at home for work and leisure, so space is at a premium. If you find a house that ticks every item on your list, there’s a good chance you won’t be the only one vying to make the winning offer. You’ll stand a better chance of beating the competition if you know exactly what you want and are ready to move fast. This means, bagging a quick house sale (if you need the funds from your current home to buy the new one) and knowing exactly which compromises you’re willing to make.
Creating your house hunting checklist will help you to clarify your priorities. You can break down the four broad areas outlined above further to create a more detailed checklist. For example, “space” might include “number of bedrooms”, “number of bathrooms”, “home office”, “size of the garden”, “location of the children’s bedrooms” etc. The more thought you give to your house hunting checklist, the more helpful you will find it when it comes to making tough decisions. And don’t forget to prioritise your list. If you make everything a “must-have” feature, you could be waiting a very long time to find a property that fits the bill!