Friday, 13 June 2014

Moving House Part one – Finding a new place

I decided to start a new regular series on moving house, another 4 parter. To be honest it was mainly because of lack of anything else to post at the moment, as home projects have taken a back seat. However a lot of my other projects are wrapping up and I hope to get at least some garden work done this weekend so I should have a courtyard update soon!
I'm not an expert on moving home but I think with the amount of times we've done it in only 5 years of living together we are getting close enough! We've lived in 4 properties over 5 years, our average is 1.5 years per place (some longer some shorter)...I hope we won't move again until we buy somewhere now! I thought it would be good to share the experiences we've had. 
So you've decided you want to move or been given notice by your landlord to leave, what’s the next step? If you've been given your notice, first take a deep breath and don’t panic! The first time we were given 2 months notice I was so upset that we had to move (even though I didn't love the place we were in) as I thought we’d never find a place in time, but we were actually out with time to spare!
A few hints and tips we've found along the way when house hunting:
  • Sit down and think about where you want to move, and what you need from your new place. We make a list of absolutely essential requirements (cost, location, size and area are often the main ones) then a second list of things that would be nice but you could live without or work around (near shops, off road parking etc).
  • Stick to your essential requirements (for us compromising on them has only lead to being dissatisfied after moving in), but don’t be too fussy on the rest especially if you have a deadline to move. For example somewhere must meet all of our essential requirements for us to book a viewing. We decided this time we wanted at least a one bedroom so discounted any studios, it must have central heating, so we didn't bother looking at anything with night storage heating and so on.  The ‘would be nice’ list comes second, it’s fantastic to find somewhere that meets the requirements of both lists but it is just not always possible. We managed to meet nearly all of our 'would be nice' points and our essential list and we are the happiest we've ever been with a property.
  • Call or email all your local letting agents and let them know your requirements, and start getting the local newspapers (or steal the classifieds/property section from someone who does) and look in there every day. Obviously you may be in more of a hurry if you've been given your notice, so look at every available place to find advertisements – Local papers, property websites, do a search engine search for your area, classifieds websites as well as lettings agents.
  • Also tell everyone you know that you’re looking for a new place, I knew 2 people at work who live near where we wanted to move to so they were looking out for ‘to let’ signs in their area for us.
  • If you both work set aside a day per week for viewings so you can just book in a viewing without having to keep checking with each other and calling agents back.
  • Being clear on what you want will save time when viewing, we found that there were a lot of places out there to let and we had to narrow it down a bit otherwise we would have spent hours looking round flats that weren't suitable. 
  • Try not to get caught in the trap of thinking ‘I’ll just move there for now then look for somewhere else’, if you've been given a deadline to move it can be scary but persevere looking for somewhere. We had real trouble finding somewhere to take us with pets and I considered moving into somewhere like a studio temporarily then moving once the 6 month or year contract was up – but that would just mean more upheaval and a year of living somewhere we didn't like. 2 of us plus 2 cats and 2 turtles in a studio is not something I would like to try but I got near to considering it.
  • However, if it gets really close you might need to think about temporary accommodation, like staying with family or friends and storing your stuff while you carry on looking. 
  • Or take a good harsh, honest look at your list of essentials, is it too long? Is something always an issue? Do your expectations match your budget? If not one of them needs to change. Do you really need hardwood floors and fireplaces and is that holding you back being on your absolutely essential list when your budget isn't getting you those period feature properties? Get to the reality of what you really need, budget, bedrooms and pets would be all I really need if I was struggling to find better, the rest (new fittings, nice decor, near shops etc) is 'would be nice'.
  • Make sure you ask all the relevant questions to you before going to look at somewhere, like price, area, pets allowed, size etc. Don’t assume just because the agent is calling you that it’s suitable, as sadly I often found this not to be the case. We moved for the first time with pets last time and although when I registered with all the agencies I told them we had cats we often got calls back about places that didn’t accept pets! One agent was very keen and sent me weekly emails of properties they had ‘selected’ for us, but when I called back to make enquiries about them most of the time nearly all of them were not suitable being either too expensive, not allowing pets or not in the area we’d asked for!
  • Ask for the full address and look it up before you go, we asked for areas in the suburbs between Gloucester and Cheltenham or in Cheltenham, but there are areas within this that are not so desirable. For example, we got a call for a house, 2 bedroom with a garden and a driveway etc, within our price range and available now. I booked the viewing and looked up the address on Google maps only to find it was in an area that I did not want to live in (locals might know where I mean!) so I cancelled it.

Feel free to add any more tips in the comments, I hope that’s helpful it’s really just some common sense guidelines for looking for rental properties. Next up will be viewings

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