How to check the local area before buying a house

Worried about neighbours from hell, flooding or building works? Here's what you should check about the local area before buying.

Bristol from the air

What can I check on-line?

The internet is an invaluable tool which, as well as revealing information on schooling and transport links, offers a wealth of other information about an area. Online research into an area you are thinking of moving to can reveal things that would not be immediately apparent from a walk around the area.

Online Maps

Online mapping services from Google, Binga and Apple offer relief and roadmaps, street views and satellite imagery.

These maps might reveal home-based businesses that generate excessive traffic or parking conflicts, for example. However, the business might be a pre-school nursery which would be ideal for your needs.

Maybe there is a dog-sitting business that could result in excessive barking during the day. On the other hand, knowing that there is a dog-walker nearby might be a plus if you need someone to look after your dog while you are at work.

Perhaps there is a pub tucked away that you had not noticed previously. Maybe this is a plus, maybe not.

The satellite view will give you a perspective of any green space locally, or any industrial areas that may cause a lot of traffic flow.

Check if there are any planning applications in the area

With local authorities under pressure to build ever more homes, you might find those green fields behind your new home have been earmarked for development. Check the local council's area plan to examine the areas that have been designated as possible future development sites.

For more immediate planning applications the Government's Planning Portal can direct you to the local planning authority website, where you can search for applications.

Although the vendor might know that his next-door neighbour is planning to extend over his garage, he may not be aware that the owners of the old mill down the road intend to convert it to a food manufacturing business and restaurant for example.

Check other house prices

You can get a gauge of whether you are paying the right price by looking at how much other houses have sold for locally. Check on Zoopla or HM Land Registry

Check the crime statistics.

Nobody wants to live in an area where there is a lot of crime. You can check what has been happening locally on the Police crime map. This map will reveal the number and nature of crimes, ordered by month.

Be aware that some postcode areas are larger than others and therefore may show a higher number of crimes. The site has a useful tool, which allows you to compare two different postcodes so you can build a better picture.

Look at local social media and newspapers

The area you intend to move to may have a Facebook page where local issues are discussed. There may be a local blog or an events page.

Obtain a copy of the local newspaper to see if there are any prominent local issues.

Once you have checked all you can on-line, it is time to research the area in person.

Visit several times

You can only get a real feel for an area if you make several visits at different times of the day, ideally during the week and at the weekends.

What might be a quiet neighbourhood during the day while everyone is at work or school, may change once children are home. There may be only a few cars on the street during the day, but parking might be a problem in the evening.

Traffic volumes on local roads can change dramatically during the rush hour, so plan a visit that coincides with the early morning or the evening commute.

Walk around the area

What are the gardens like? Are they well maintained or over-grown? Is there graffiti in the park? Litter?

Talk to local people

It is a good idea to chat with other people who live in the area, not just the immediate neighbours. If there is a local PCSO (Police Community Support Officer) around, take the opportunity to speak to him.

Finally

Remember that your particular needs may be different from anyone else's and be careful not to make too many generalisations about an area. Communities can be very different from street to street.

Your next step

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Gaynor Haliday, Legal researcher

Author:
Gaynor Haliday, Legal researcher