If you're looking for your forever home, you'll know how difficult it is to separate reality from fantasy. As property expert Phil Spencer puts it, people 'struggle to find a house because they haven’t worked out the difference between what they want and what they actually need.'
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So, how should prospective buyers go about separating their wants from their needs, and what should they prioritise when looking for a forever home? It's quite a different property search from simply looking for a house to get on the property ladder. As Phil explains in an article for Move IQ,
With that long-term strategy firmly in mind, these are the most important criteria to consider when looking for your forever home.
You will really need to think about this one long and hard, because it's more important even than the house itself. As Phil says, 'many people believe that it’s better to have the worst house on the best street than the best house on the worst street.' There's no point buying in an area that you know you'll want to get away from as soon as you can, or, if you're starting a family, in a place that has no good schools. A house with potential can always be done up relatively quickly, but not so much an area, which may or may not improve.
This is obvious, but proper budgeting – and sticking to the budget you've worked out – is what will help you stay realistic in your search. You should have an absolute upper limit (which you probably shouldn't reveal to estate agents) and not go over it no matter what. This will save you a lot of trouble down the line in case you were planning on extending or doing other expensive home improvements.
3. Property layout
A property interior can be changed relatively easily (and cheaply), but the property layout is tricker to alter. Love cooking? Don't go for the house with the tiny kitchen – you'll be limited in what you can do with it, short of a messy and expensive knocking through project.
If you are thinking of buying a house that might not fulfil your most important needs in the longer term, find out whether there's a possibility of extending or making other changes before you commit.
4. Property character
This is down to individual taste, which you shouldn't automatically discard as something that's just a want rather than a need. Of course, most of us won't be able to buy a manor house in the country, but if you really don't see yourself living in a new build (for example) long-term, then don't buy one. You have a little more margin for error with a period property in a nice area, as you'll be able to sell it easily even if you ultimately don't stay that long.
5. Spaces with value
Property experts at North Sands Developments have this useful tip for buying a forever home after Covid-19:
'Based on the interior of the home – think about where you can create spaces of value for yourself and your family. In these uncertain times, with many having spent time at home, living and working remotely, it is important to ensure that your property possesses suitable spaces to ensure that your living quality is good should a pandemic arise in the future. Quiet, tranquil spaces for relaxation and reading, a study for remote working, and a good-sized garden are just a few suggestions when considering how to ensure your property is a ‘forever home.''