buying advice forever home Research

How to find your forever home

Q3 2015

With house buyers looking for their 'forever home' earlier, Jessica Simpson from Private Property Search, the independent buying consultancy of Strutt & Parker, gives her tips on what to look out for when looking for that dream property.

With house buyers looking for their 'forever home' earlier, Jessica Simpson from Private Property Search, the independent buying consultancy of Strutt & Parker, gives her tips on what to look out for when looking for that dream property.

Figures show that buyers are no longer taking the housing ladder one step at a time and are now looking for their ‘forever home’ from a much younger age.

The ‘forever home’ is essentially a family home – where people will have their children, watch them grow up and then retire into. It needs to be somewhere that can handle any changes life throws at it, be it surprise triplets, parents moving in when they get older or the children moving out.

Here are the key things to look for when buying a forever home:

Flexibility

The forever home needs to be something all-encompassing. It's no longer all about size. What is more important now is a flexible space - something that is not too big, as people are thinking about when the children leave home and what they would do with the space.

An annexe or secondary accommodation seems to be creeping up the wish list. This is because housing is so expensive that home owners are using the annexe for their children so they have their own place to stay while saving to get on the property ladder or for their parents as a ‘granny flat’.

It can also be used when people are looking to retire – they could move into the annexe and then either open the main home for their children or rent it out for extra income. With an annexe, they can also shut it down when it’s not being used.

Having a space that can be closed off or opened up depending on demand is important. Rooms need to have good proportions – that’s key with any house but very important for those planning on changing the usage of rooms. Go for regular shaped rooms with generous ceilings.

For example, some people might be living in the same home when they’re older so being able to convert one of the downstairs rooms into a bedroom could be critical if they end up suffering mobility problems later in life.

Staying warm

If you asked house buyers for a list of what they were looking for in their forever home, they probably wouldn’t say energy efficiency – but it’s a main requirement whether they recognise this or not.

This is because the trend is for people moving away from draughty old houses. Everyone wants a warm home, that is easy and affordable to heat. That means they are looking for an energy efficient home without knowing it. Since the zero rate of VAT was removed from listed properties, there is not the same incentive or attraction to fully renovate a period house and install a central heating system as it will now cost 20% more than it used to.

Room to grow

The ability to add value is key as people are still quite nervous about the ups and downs of the housing market. Adding value might be through extensions, a major overhaul, adding buildings or knocking them down and starting again. The right architect will also be able to advise on planning restrictions.

As far as the actual house goes, making sure that the bare bones are solid is important. Most people don’t mind a project as long as things like the roof, foundations, plumbing and electrics are in good condition to start with.

Swimming pools and tennis courts aren't as popular as they once were, due to the upkeep and running costs.

Schools

When it comes to schools in the area, most people are savvy enough now to look beyond the primary school and focus more on the secondary school. Good village primary schools are key but close proximity to good independent secondary schools is at the top of the list.

Local area

Most buyers also want something close to civilisation, especially if they are there for the long haul. They want to be near a post-office, shop, pub or train station. People like places which have a sense of community.

However, there is a balance to be struck as buyers are worried about suburban sprawl. They don’t want to buy somewhere that is on the edge of the countryside only for it to be consumed by a modern housing development. The planning rules have been relaxed recently allowing for development in areas that were previously off the table, so it’s hard to judge where will be built on.

Saleability

While you might might buy a property as your forever home, circumstances do change so always have an eye on how saleable it is.

One inside tip to consider, if the property allows it, is to change it to a ‘mixed-use’ property. This could be through using the land for grazing or selling apples from your orchard. The reason for this is that when you come to sell it, the stamp duty for mixed-use properties over £1.5m is just 4%, rather than the 12% on standard homes.