You want to move, and you fancy a change of scenery, but how can you be sure you’ll choose the right area for you? Christina Neal suggests some key things to consider if you’re planning to relocate.
I lived in Surrey for 17 years, then moved away in 2017 when I met my partner. We wanted to have a fresh start in a new area. He lived in Waltham Abbey in Essex, and I had originally grown up in the same county. We quickly chose Colchester. It felt natural to return to the county where I grew up, and I still have friends in Essex.
Admittedly, our swift decision worked out more by luck than judgement. Colchester works well for us. Firstly, it’s located near the A12, which means using just one road to reach the M25. Secondly, it has a mainline station with regular trains going into Liverpool Street – though admittedly I had no idea how expensive the train fare would be (thank goodness I work from home).
In addition, we’re a five-minute walk from the town centre, which has just about everything anyone could need, including shops, restaurants, a local park, a cinema, several gyms and much more. It’s convenient, yet property prices aren’t expensive by comparison, mainly because it’s further out than my old area. Yet Colchester is only a 50-minute train journey into London.
We got lucky. We chose a bustling place with lots of activity, and affordable house prices. But everyone is different, and you need to make sure your new area suits you and your interests. You may prefer to live somewhere more rural for instance, but would that be too quiet and remote if you’re used to living in a busy city? Is there an area that would be a good middle ground – i.e. not as busy as a highly populated city but not too far out in the sticks?
Before you make your move, check out the area during the day and in the evenings when people are more likely to be going out. How busy is it during the day and how noisy is it at night? Do you like the fact there’s plenty going on or would you prefer somewhere quieter? Does it have all the amenities you need to live the life you want? (I couldn’t live in a town without a gym).
If you have a family, you’ll want to check out the catchment areas for local schools beforehand. You’ll also want to make sure the traffic isn’t too busy and that your commute to work is fairly smooth.
It’s also important to find out if there are any new developments planned for the area that could have an impact on your quality of life in future. You can find out more about your desired area on the Which? website by typing in a postcode or town. Its Area Comparison Tool will tell you how it compares to other areas.
How safe is the area?
The Which? website also recommends checking the crime rates in the area. You can do this on the police’s website.
It’s also worth thinking ahead in case you are likely to move again in future. Consider how well house prices are likely to hold up. If you move to an up-and-coming area with plans for growth and development, this could be a good sign for house prices.
Figures recently released by Halifax showed that the areas seeing the highest growth in house prices currently include the North West (11.8 per cent annual increase), the South West (11 per cent annual increase) Yorkshire and Humber (9.7 per cent increase) and the West Midlands (8.8 per cent increase).
Naturally, prices can fluctuate over time, and there are no guarantees, but if you do your research on the area and find out what plans there may be for its future development then this information should stand you in good stead.
That said, one of the most important factors when relocating is to ensure your chosen area has all of the amenities you need and that it suits your lifestyle.