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How‌ ‌to‌ ‌Choose‌ ‌a‌ ‌New‌ ‌Area‌ ‌to‌ ‌Live‌ ‌in‌ ‌the UK‌ ‌

Written by Reviewed by Graham Norwood

22nd Apr 2020 (Last updated on 29th Oct 2020) 15 minute read

Choosing a new area to live is one of the most important steps when buying a new home. The area you choose to move to can have a huge impact on your lifestyle and future plans and, ideally, you want somewhere you can grow into, rather than one you and your family will quickly outgrow.

The area you choose to live in may be dictated by the fact that you have or are planning to have children. It will also depend on your work and income, crime rates, public transport links and a whole host of other deciding factors. 

Compare My Move work with property and financial experts to bring you everything you need to know about choosing a new area to live in the UK. From schools and employment opportunities, to clean air and noise pollution, we’ve covered all the factors that come into play when it comes to choosing where to live.

This article will cover the following:
  1. What Can You Afford?
  2. What Type of Area Are You Looking For?
  3. Does the Area Suit Your Lifestyle?
  4. Employment Opportunities
  5. Schools and Education
  6. Transport Links
  7. Nearby Amenities
  8. Crime Rates and Anti-Social Behaviour
  9. Noise Pollution
  10. Access to Green Areas
  11. Pollution and Air Quality
  12. New Developments
  13. Making a Decision
  14. Save Time and Money With Compare My Move

What Can You Afford?

One of the key elements of choosing your new hometown is finding an area you can afford. Many of the most desirable and sought after areas come with a hefty price tag and although the area may be perfect for your wants and needs, it may not necessarily be right for your budget.

According to the UK House Price Index, the UK average house prices increased to £239,196, up by 2.5% over the year to August, up from 2.1% in July 2020. The East Midlands saw the biggest annual growth in England with a 3.6% increase, while the North East seeing the lowest at just 0.2%.

Below you’ll find the average house price for each country within the UK, starting from the highest to the lowest: 

CountryAverage House Price

England

£256,000

Wales 

£173,000

Scotland

£155,000

Northern Ireland

£141,000 

 

When it comes to affordability, you will not only need an idea of where you want to live but also what type of property you want to live in. Choosing to buy in a more affluent area may mean compromising on the type or size of property you want to purchase. 

You will also need to consider the full cost of buying a house when you budget for your new home. This includes the deposit, conveyancing fees, surveying costs and any work which may be required once you move in. Decide roughly how much mortgage you can afford and look on various property websites to get an idea of what you can get for your money.

House Price-to-Income Ratio

When it comes to affordability, this can largely be decided by a House Price-to-Income Ratio. This is essentially the cost of property versus the average income across the UK, giving an indication of affordability in the area. This is done by dividing property prices with earnings. 

Below we’ve reviewed data from the Office for National Statistics for 2019 which reveals the median house price, income and the House Price-to-Income Ratio across England and Wales. Perhaps unsurprisingly, London appears as the least affordable area in the country. On the other hand, the North East has proved to be the most affordable area, followed by Wales.

AreaMedian House PriceMedian IncomeHouse Price-to-Income Ratio

North East

£141,400

£27,191

5.20

North West

£165,000

£28,487

5.79

Yorkshire and The Humber

£164,000

£27,856

5.89

East Midlands

£192,000

£28,517

6.73

West Midlands

£194,995

£28,262

6.90

East

£287,500

£31,878

9.02

London

£470,000

£36,797

12.77

South East

£324,995

£33,357

9.74

South West

£252,000

£29,227

8.62

Wales

£160,000

£27,882

5.74

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What Type of Area Are You Looking For?

There are both advantages and disadvantages to every type of area. Ultimately you will need to decide what is most important to you and what you deem to be essential for the location of your new home, whether that be city life or country living

City

The advantages of living in a city include a lively atmosphere with plenty to do and amenities right on your doorstep. However, crime rates are often higher in city centres. There are also increased levels of light and noise pollution, in addition to lower air quality.

Suburban

Many families opt to live outside of the city, in suburban areas, if they can afford it. These are deemed to be safer than a city centre, with better air quality and lower crime rates. They may also have more access to green spaces but are further away from the amenities that city life offers. 

Rural 

Rural areas have the advantage of open green spaces, clean air and often spectacular views, but have the disadvantage of potentially being further away from jobs, schools and shops. Public transport will likely be less frequent and you may struggle with phone signal and broadband speed.

Does the Area Suit Your Lifestyle?

If you are moving close to your current location, you will already have an idea of the advantages and disadvantages of the area and will most likely know where you would like to live. However, if you are moving to a different part of town or even across the country, you will need to do more research and planning to get to know the area.

There are a number of factors you need to consider before you even begin looking at areas for your new home. Start by looking at your current lifestyle and what you need from your new location. Consider what suits you and your family dynamic. For example, if you have young children, older children or live with elderly relatives, your needs may be different. 

A safe environment is crucial regardless of your family set up, but you may be especially cautious with young children. You will also want to know that there are high performing schools nearby, open green areas for them to play and minimal traffic.

Without a doubt, being happy where you live is a hugely important factor. Halifax found in their Quality of Life Survey 2020 that East Hertfordshire topped the list of best places to live, citing affordability, safety and access to green spaces as key factors. 

The annual Quality of Life research looks at local authorities across England, Wales and Scotland. The 2020 study found that the top 10 Local Authority Districts in the UK were:

Quality of Life PositionLocal AuthorityRegion

1

East Hertfordshire

East of England

2

Fareham

South East

3

Hart

South East

4

Horsham

South East

5

Maldon

East of England

6

Selby

Yorkshire and The Humber

7

Hambleton

Yorkshire and The Humber

8

Babergh

East of England

9

St Edmundsbury 

East of England

10

Wokingham

South East

“Everyone has different priorities when it comes to choosing a place to live, depending on time of life, and personal circumstances”, said Russell Galley, Managing Director at Halifax. 

“Affordability will always be one of the most important factors, with getting a foot on the property ladder still difficult for some people.”

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Employment Opportunities

Despite having different needs and wants, when it comes to choosing where to live, there are some aspects that almost everybody will take into consideration: employment. Your daily commute and the employment opportunities in and around the area will be a key element when choosing where to live. Make sure you do some thorough research and ideally have a job lined up in your new area before proceeding with the move.

When looking at a new area, ask yourself the following:

  • Are you able to travel to your current job from this area? 
  • If you need to change jobs, are there companies in your sector nearby? 
  • Where would you work if you lived here? 
  • If you need to commute, how long will it take and what will it cost?

Schools and Education

If you have or are planning to have children, knowing which schools are in the area will be essential. The local council will have information on the nearby schools and may offer information on the application process. 

Websites such as Ofsted will also provide information on schools in the area and how each one is performing, so you can create a shortlist of desirable schools.  When it comes to securing a new school place, the application process may differ from school to school so make sure you do your research in advance.

If you have older children, you may also want to be aware of nearby Universities and other further education centres, especially if they’re planning on staying closer to home. Many of the UK’s larger cities have excellent Universities, so keep this in mind too if applicable. 

Transport Links

Whether it is commuting to work, the school run or you want to be close to the hub of a city, good transport links will be crucial. This is especially important if you cannot drive or do not own a car and are reliant on public transport for work and essential shopping. 

Take a look around the area: 

  • Is there a train station or bus stop nearby? 
  • How regular and reliable is public transport? 
  • How much does it cost to get to the nearest city centre or supermarket?

You may also want to factor in the cost of your new commute when looking at properties. A reasonably priced property seems less like a great deal if you’re having to pay hefty train fares each month. 

Nearby Amenities

As with public transport links, look out for what is within walking distance in the area. Are the essentials such as local shops, a doctor surgery and post office within walking distance?

Depending on your lifestyle, you may also want to make sure that there are leisure activities such as a gym or pool nearby, in addition to a place of worship, a bank or pubs and restaurants. Ask yourself when looking at a new area; are the essentials for my lifestyle within a close distance?

Crime Rates and Anti-Social Behaviour

Safety and security will be a big factor when choosing both your home and the area it resides in. Levels of crime and anti-social behaviour can turn what seems like the ideal location, into a nightmare area. 

The most recent Police Force Area crime data for England and Wales show the number of reported crimes per region. London shows the highest rate of reported crime across England, followed by the North West which includes Chesire, Cumbria, Greater Manchester, Lancashire and Merseyside. 

The least amount of reported crime was found in the North East of England, including Cleveland, Durham and Northumbria. In Wales, the most reported crime was found in South Wales where the capital city of Cardiff is located, with Dyfed-Powys, across Mid and West Wales, reporting the least amount of crime. 

AreaTotal Recorded Crime in England (excluding fraud)

North East

265,771

North West

675,164

Yorkshire and The Humber

555,135

East Midland

385,748

West Midlands

450,117

East

479,058

London

850,410

South East

669,722

South West

362,979

 

AreaTotal Recorded Crime in Wales (excluding fraud)

Dyfed-Powys                   

31,064

Gwent

54,718

North Wales

57,721

South Wales

105,261

*Police recorded crime across England and Wales, year ending June 2020

Although no area is guaranteed to be crime-free, there are a few checks you can do to get an idea of the levels of crime and anti-social behaviour:

  1. Visit the area several times and at different times of the day
  2. Talk to the locals about what the area is like to live in. try to find out if there has been notable incidents or a noticeable rise or fall in anti-social behaviour. 
  3. Research statistics on crime in the area using sites such as Police.UK
  4. Keep an eye out for the local news, is there a pattern in crime? Does the area have a reputation?

Noise Pollution

Just like anti-social behaviour, noise pollution can be a nuisance that can turn your ideal home into a place of dread. Be it noise from nearby roads, construction work or inconsiderate neighbours, disturbing the peace around your home is enough to make some people move. 

Compare My Move recently conducted research into noise complaints to local councils across the UK and found that Leeds, which has a substantial student population, had received the most noise complaints within the last three years, totalling 27,316. Glasgow followed with 20,521 complaints with Belfast close behind with 20,261.

Noise pollution may be a concern for young families or for elderly relatives. However, if you are a young professional - living alone or as a couple, you may want more of a lively neighbourhood, with nearby restaurants, music venues and bars. It all depends on you and your individual wants and needs.

As with checking the area for crime, there are a number of steps you can take to get an idea of the noise levels in your chosen area:

  • Are there busy and main roads near the area? Are there plans for any in the future?
  • Is the property near existing music venues? 
  • Visit the property at different times of day to get an idea of the noise levels during the times you’re most likely to be home.
  • Ask residents and neighbours if they are aware of disruptive noise levels in the area. 

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Access to Green Areas

Parks, open green spaces and nature reserves areas are ideal for families with children. They are also valued by dog walkers and fitness enthusiasts, but green spaces are also essential for mental wellbeing and health among all walks of life.

Nearby green spaces are considered such an asset that the Office for National Statistic (ONS) found that urban green spaces raise nearby house prices by an average of £2,500. 

The ONS stated that having a view of green space or water will boost prices even more, as homebuyers value being near to green spaces “probably because they can use them for leisure activities like dog walking, sports and exercise”.  

Pollution and Air Quality

Air quality and high levels of pollution are increasingly becoming a concern in the UK, especially for young families and the elderly. Some areas of the country are worse than others for air pollution, with the World Health Organisation (WHO) highlighting 42 British towns and cities which broke the WHO limits on ambient air pollution in 2018. 

These areas with higher pollution levels result in a higher likelihood of respiratory health risks for residents. A study from Centre for Cities reported that one in 19 death’s in Britain’s largest towns and cities are linked to air pollution, with people living in urban areas in south-east England more likely to die from exposure to toxic air. 

To review the levels of pollution and air quality in the areas you are considering buying you can use the tool on the UK Air page on the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) website.

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New Developments

Make sure you’re aware of any proposed housing estates or major building works in the area. Are these likely to negatively or positively affect you in this new area? Are these likely to affect the value of your house?

In some cases, new developments can be a great addition to an area, creating jobs and allowing the community to thrive. However, new developments may also lead to noise pollution concerns, such as a new road development or a busy factory. 

As part of the conveyancing process, your solicitor will be able to give you details of any upcoming developments and planned wind farms and the like as part of the Local Authority Search. This will give you a good understanding of what might be appearing in the future around your new neighbourhood.

Making a Decision

Ultimately, it is your decision as to where is right for you. Prepared with the crime data, information on new developments, the schools and employment opportunities and the data and we have provided in this article, you should feel better equipped to make a decision. However, if you’re still uncertain, there are some steps you can take to be absolutely sure. 

Using a Buying Agent

If you know very little about an area or maybe nervous about making a mistake and buying unwisely you can use a buying agent. These are often former estate agents but instead of working for the seller, they work exclusively for the buyer. They will give you informed and impartial advice about the location, whether it is a region, individual town or even a street.

Buying agents will look into the property and the area around it on your behalf. This includes speaking with estate agent contacts about what homes are coming to the market and why and conversing with neighbours to see if there have been issues in the locality, and doing in-person visits to a street or property. This is to see if it, for example, a commuter nightmare, close to nightlife or whether it sits under a flight path. 

Be aware that buying agents charge a fee which is usually 0.5% to 2% of the purchase price of the property you go on to buy - so they tend to be used by buyers of more expensive homes.

Try Renting First

Buying a property is a huge financial commitment. If you believe you’ve found the right area, but want to be absolutely sure before purchasing a property there, it might be worth looking into short-term renting before committing to buying.

This would especially be beneficial if you are moving to a place you are mostly unfamiliar with or is a good distance away from your current home. Living in the area first, without a substantial financial commitment, will be able to give you an idea of whether the area is right for you. 

Save Time and Money With Compare My Move

Wherever you decide to buy a home, Compare My Move is there for you. We can help save you time and money on your conveyancing, surveying and home removal costs with our easy-to-use forms.

Compare My Move helps you compare quotes in your local area and connect you with experienced professionals, ensuring your home move is as seamless as possible.

Adele MacGregor

Having written for PerformanceIN, WalesOnline, Grazia Magazine and The Olive Press, Adele now writes advice articles for home movers, first-time buyers and house sellers alike.

Graham Norwood

Reviewed by Graham Norwood

Property Journalist and Editor,

With over 15 years of experience in residential property journalism, Graham is currently the editor for both Estate Agent Today and Letting Agent Today.