5 Things to Consider When Choosing a Location
As we've all seen prices increase and increase. Many people are finding that their dream property resides on the other side of the M25. Depending on what you're trying to achieve, London may not be the best option at all. Essentially you're paying the premium to be close to the centre in an already developed area. Chances are you know about this, you've seen it happen on your very doorstep, you've seen the prices in areas that no one wanted to live in, or where you grew up increase to sky high levels. You've seen the hipsters move in, swanky cafe's and they've revamped that pub in to a posh new vegan street food restaurant.
How do you get around this and still stay in budget?
1. Aim for the cheapest areas in and around London
I put this first as the step, because that's what I did. When I tell you that Dagenham was not my first choice of area to purchase, I'm sure most of you believe me and can understand why. It looks like a dump. If you've ever been to Dagenham Heathway Centre, and seen the JD Sports of 1995, You'll know that everything is outdated, closing down and/or falling apart. Ironically this is what you should look for in an area. Dagenham is a London borough, so would technically count as London despite the Essex postcode/address. It sits on the outskirts, however the routes into London are quite straight forward, It's served by a tube and rail station (c2c line at Dagenham Dock) and you can easily get a bus into East London. Sure it may not look like much now, but the prices will have a lot more space to increase in the future as opposed to areas that have already skyrocketed. Like Hackney for example.
2. Aim for areas that are next for Regeneration
Regeneration always tends to move further and further out each time, as waves of people can't afford inner London. Developers will always try and be one step ahead of a trend. They will buy up commercial units and properties in the areas where regeneration is next due to hit. We've seen this happen in Hackney, Stratford, then moving out to Forest Gate, Manor Park, Ilford, Chadwell Heath, Barking, Romford, The list continues. The opening of the Cross Rail has definitely helped with some areas. However Barking has always been an interesting one for me. What you'll find here is that a major town of 2 areas (Barking and Dagenham) was completely regenerated to attract a younger crowd despite no real change in the tube/rail routes or any other change for that matter. Traditionally, Barking had an ageing population which ultimately put pressure on resources and council facilities as well as taking up housing and having to provide significant discount. By modernising and 'gentrifying' the area, not only have they created a new younger tax paying crowd. They will capitalise off of the 'hype' that Barking is currently the cheapest borough to live in London.. Keep a look out in your considered areas for anything new happening. Are they re-building a library, is there a new hotel being built on the corner? Developers will always add new commercial units where they expect a new crowd to follow. Take a leaf out of their book.
3. Explore new commuter towns
Kent, Luton, Colchester, Uxbridge Purfleet, Grays. Just a few places where you can currently get realistic affordable housing and still make the commute in to London usually within the hour. You have to be mindful when you decide to buy or rent in these places. Research on the transport routes are key to making decisions. Of course you'll always examine the distance from where you work to where you live. But most importantly, the cost is what you need to look at. You'll save money in the long term by having cheaper accommodation. But if you're shelling out an extra £200 a month to get into London is it really worth the cost?
4. Can you move jobs?
As part of my current job, I recently came across a company based in Basildon, paying £25,000 salary for a Graduate role. Considering it took me to the age of 25 to acquire that salary. It made me think of how our generation believe that some of the best Salaries are only available in the centre of London. If you're earning a £27,500 salary but forking out £2500 a year on travel to Zone 1, paying sky high rent and mortgage and have £100 to last you for the month, are you really making the most of your opportunities? Sure many jobs offer a season ticket loan so you can get a yearly discount. But working locally has always been one of the easiest ways for me to save money and target an area which makes things worth my while. I have only ever taken one job in Zone 1, I left after a year because the amount spent on travel made things a lot more difficult than necessary. I (super) reluctantly had to sell my car just to keep things flowing. When actually getting a job much closer to where you want to live can open you up to a lot more opportunities, lower rent and more spending monies.
5. Crime Rates
This by far is one of my favourite things to look at. Okay so no one is telling you to move somewhere that you can't sleep due to the rapid gunfire taking place between rival gangs at night. But actually, somewhere with a high crime rate might not be the end or your property dreams, it could actually equate to significant discount. What you'll need to consider most is what are the police and council doing in that area. If somewhere has a traditionally low crime rate, chances are that the police don't have to do too much work, there will be a low police presence so if something does happen, Don't expect to find a wondering officer on the street. Generally speaking, the higher the crime rate, the more the police and local council are doing to tackle it, i.e. increasing police presence, starting a new neighbourhood watch, fitting homes with burglar alarms. Look at the initiatives of each areas. Working in Stratford I came across the objection of 'Oh, but Stratford is extremely dangerous, I'd feel much better in somewhere like Hackney' (Again here would come that internal eye roll of, well you weren't saying this 10 years ago when Hackney was crime capital, but hey.). Stratford is a high crime area, However it is also a tourist hotspot and has several thousand people passing it on an hourly basis. Of course it will attract crime. However it also has one of the highest visible police presences I've come across. If it is high on a local agenda to tackle crime, you may be able to sniff out a good discount on buying or renting, because actually when these procedures are put in place, crime does reduce. Check out Crime Statistics for an area you're considering.
Where are you considering to buy/rent and why? Leave your comments below.