Our content manager Christina Neal reveals why she thinks it’s important for a property to feel like a home and not just an investment (unless you don’t plan to live there…)
Sometimes you just know. When you’re house hunting and you walk into the right property, you know it feels right before you’ve seen every room. There’s something about the atmosphere of the place, the general vibe, the feeling you get when you know you could live there. I’ve owned six properties in the last 30 years. And this has always been my experience of becoming a homeowner, with one exception. Strangely, the only time I didn’t feel this way was when I bought my previous house, even though it had a lot going for it. We viewed the property – an unoccupied yet very respectable family home in a nice part of Cheam that had a lot to offer. Large rooms, a spacious garden, a big driveway and located in a quiet street. What wouldn’t you love about a place like that?
Weirdly though, I didn’t connect with the property. My partner at the time loved it. He had ambitions of buying a bigger house (this place certainly ticked that box) with a view to selling up and downsizing in the long term. In his mind, it was a financial investment that would pay off in years to come. A property we could sell when we were ready to downsize to a more manageable property. All pretty sensible when you think about it.
Yet I wanted a house that felt more homely. A place I could enjoy living in. This house looked good but it somehow felt a bit impersonal.
A sound investment
Despite my reservations, I could see it would be a sound investment. So we went ahead and bought it. When we sold up five years later, we made a healthy profit.
Did I enjoy living there? Well, it was spacious enough for us to have some great parties. But it never truly felt like home. It was expensive to heat, usually very cold (despite us getting the attic insulated) and didn’t have a homely feel to it, regardless of any changes we made.
The experience made me think about what prospective buyers should consider when viewing a property. We often talk about finding a nice area with good schools and making sure it offers good transport links. All the practical stuff. Yet if you plan to be there for a long time, should you consider how much equity it will generate or how much you will enjoy living in it? Is one more important than the other? Ideally, I would want to tick both boxes.
When is it right to buy?
And is now the right time for you to buy? Are the circumstances right? It’s often been said by property experts that if you plan to live in a home for less than five years, you should consider renting. The perceived wisdom is to buy when you’re thinking long-term. Over the long term, you gain wealth by building up equity in your home. That’s fine, but it’s OK to look for a place that you enjoy living in.
I’ve been in my current place for almost four years. And I plan to be here for many more years. It’s smaller and cosy, yet from the moment I stepped inside, it felt like home. Even though it wasn’t mine and I was only renting at first. I loved it so much I decided to buy it in the end.
While financial security is important for many reasons, my advice is to try and find a place that works for you on all levels. Financially and emotionally. It may be an investment for the future, but it’s also your home. The place where you’ll live and make memories with your loved ones. It’s also likely to be the biggest financial commitment you’ll ever make. So give it some serious thought and don’t be afraid to keep looking if you’re not sure. You’ll know when you’ve found the right place.