Your first family home in London
Searching for your dream home is not an easy task, but this can be particularly true when trying to find your first family home in London.
As an experienced property search specialist, I have had many clients who are expecting their first child, determined to move from their one or two bedroom London flat in order to accommodate their imminent arrival. Most are keen to leave more central parts of the city for the quieter, greener areas of zones 2, 3 and beyond in which to find their first family home. However, when two are about to become three it is easy to lose perspective.
When looking for your first family home, one thing is certain: your potential new home should give you a good feeling. This ‘feel’ may come in various forms; it may be a property that needs extensive work, but you are able to visualise how it will reflect and harbor you and your family at the end of its renovation journey. On the other hand, you may find a home that immediately suggests that it is absolutely the right house for you and your forthcoming family. The feel right factor can be immediate or it can evolve, with a little discernment, over several viewings.
Leaving abstract matters behind, there are some practical aspects of property finding and viewing that should be taken into consideration when searching for your first family home. Here are some of my tips to help you through the process:
Choose an area with local amenities within walking distance. Believe it or not, there are many residential areas of London that are not just a hop, skip and a jump from the nearest frothless latte stop, but being able to take a short stroll to grab a coffee in the early, heady days of parenthood will make you feel human again. A park or green space just a short walk away is priceless when little children are in the picture.
Good transport links are vital in London. If your property is within walking distance to or a short bus ride away from an underground and/or overground station then it will not only be beneficial to your everyday life, but you will be making a valuable investment.
Useful app: AroundMe and Nearest Tube
Properties near to good, local and independent schools always sell for a premium; they are also likely to hold their value. It is easy to think that this is too far in the future if your baby has not yet made an appearance, but it is an important consideration. Ofsted reports will give you information that you need, but the best feedback that you can get is from other local parents. It is really worth trying to chat to other locals with children to obtain first hand experiences of the schools in your chosen area. Equally, online local forums are a great source of information that are worth tapping into.
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A good estate agent will provide you with a floor plan with clear measurements. It is vital for you to know the square footage of the property, the size of the rooms and the overall layout. A large number of bedrooms does not necessarily equal a large house. Look for the size of the living space, which is key when you are looking for a family home. During your viewing, check the flow of the property. Does it ‘make sense’ to your way of living? Lateral living usually lends itself to family life as it can give a property a feeling of space and light and you won’t have to run up and down stairs every two seconds. Open plan living space is often preferred, but try to find an option for a separate play area/room. As the children grow so does their toy collection, which you may not want as part of your living room or kitchen furniture.
The best way that you can easily compare properties is by looking at their internal measurements to see how much house you are getting for your money.
Useful app: MagicPlan by Sensopia
As we all know, adding square footage to your property is an excellent way of adding value to your home. A loft conversion is the first thing that homeowners usually think about, but side extensions and basement conversions (the latter can be somewhat of a contentious issue) are both great ways of creating additional living space, not to mention a sound financial investment. It is always a good idea to look at the potential of a property. If there is scope to extend, but finances do not allow for it immediately, it is always a possibility for the future.
Useful app: Home Design 3D by Anuman
One family bathroom may be ample to begin with. However, it is always good to look at the potential to add another bathroom/shower room, perhaps as an en-suite to the master bedroom. If there is no downstairs loo, is there space to add one? This will become all important when potty training begins and time is of the essence! It will also be a valuable commodity for any future buyers.
Somewhere to store, cram, hide our not-so-often-used possessions is invaluable to all homeowners. Yet, with an expanding family, you will be truly grateful for as much storage space as you can get. If the property does not have ample storage space already, are there areas that lend themselves to cupboards, shelves, storage units? Always think about freeing up valuable floor space by using any bare walls to create stylish, yet practical, storage.
I would advise any of my clients to introduce themselves to immediate neighbours before purchasing a property. This is particularly important in London where buildings are tightly packed together and, even if you are looking to buy a detached property, your immediate neighbours will not be far away. Remember that you will be living in close proximity to these people for, potentially, a number of years so do investigate.
Take your time
Lastly, but very importantly, do not rush. That is easy to say with last year’s house price rises and low housing stock. However, the tide is slowly turning (and the election campaigns are under way) so it is now becoming a little easier for buyers; with more houses coming on to the market there is no need to panic. This, after all, will be one of the most important decisions that you will make so take your time, do your research, use the apps or……use a property finder!