House Hunting

Post length: 1,482 words, about 6 and a half minutes.

Monica and I have recently been looking to buy a house. We got a mortgage agreement in principal, set our budget and set about looking for houses.

Living in the south east of England house prices are notoriously high, so I thought I’d take a look at some areas I have a connection to and see what the same budget — £300,000 — would buy there. For reference, let’s see the kind of property £300k will buy in Surrey and Hampshire.

This is a two bedroom property in Upper Hale, Farnham. The property is listed as “offers in excess of £300,000.” There’s no doubt the house is smart and has a reasonable size garden, but there’s no getting away from the lack of space — it’s a mid terrace with one room and a small kitchen downstairs, two bedrooms and the family bathroom upstairs.

Castles in Farnham have this three bedroom property on their books. Like the previous house this one is also in Farnham, but on the “desirable” south side. The property is in need of some minor improvement, but there’s nothing major wrong with it (at most it needs rewiring, a new bathroom fitting, the stairlift removing and redecorating). There is a reasonable size garden and they have just about managed to squeeze a third bedroom in, albeit a very small one with a quarter of the room missing to the stairs. The agent told me they have priced the house at this level because of good local schools — something we’re not yet looking for — and that a very similar property nearby recently sold for £360k.

The next two properties are similar modern town houses. Both are on the periphery of Basingstoke in Hampshire where prices seem a little more reasonable for the south east.

Both are marketed by the same agent — Property Explorer who, in our experience, have a lot of properties in Basingstoke — and are three floors with 4 bedrooms, some of the largest properties we have looked at. The first is in the reasonably modern Beggarwood estate on the south west of the city and the second is on the site of the old Hampshire Mental Asylum north west of the city centre. While the first sold on it launch day for more than the asking price, the second failed to sell immediately and has since been taken off the market.

Also in Hampshire, this time Alton, £300,000 will buy you this three bedroom terrace. An extended mid-terrace with character (and very steep stairs!), this house ticked most of our boxes. The road it’s on is tucked away not far from the town centre and the property has a reasonable size garden at the back. It also came complete with a damp smell on the ground floor. I attributed this to the bathroom. Sandwiched between the living room and the kitchen extension on the ground floor I suspect there was a lack of ventilation meaning the room never really dried out. Ground floor bathrooms seem to be common in these extended terraces, but at least in this instance it wasn’t past the kitchen in the back of the extension!

At this point, having been looking generally at 3 bedroom terraces and semis, lets see what our budget of £300,000 would buy us elsewhere in the country. I’ve chosen three areas to compare: Halifax, the area I lived in between the ages of 8 and 18; Skipton, where my brother now lives; and Abergavenny in Wales, where my parents have their home. This is where the reality of the high prices in Surrey and Hampshire really starts to hit home.

(This property was removed from the market before I could get the pictures. I’ve left it here for posterity). This smart property is a 5 bedroom, two reception room, three bathroom detached house with large sun room / conservatory and separate office space. It is advertised at our budget price of £300k. It is within easy reach of Halifax station and town centre. It’s been on the market since mid-September and appears to remain unsold (and I’d guess didn’t sell, so was removed) so the owners would, presumably, be open to lower offers. While the front of the house isn’t overly attractive, the large rear garden somewhat makes up for it.

Again bang on our budget of £300,000 is this 6 bedroom property. At least this time it’s a semi-detached (or “end terrace house of semi detached appearance” as per the agent) and has no garden. Still, it offers large rooms arranged over three floors and a basement.

This final Halifax property is a mere 4 bedroom detached house. It nestles in the trees on a road sparsely populated with large Victorian villas and had a modest garden. The rooms are not as large as some of the previous Halifax properties — the 4th bedroom is a modest 3.16 x 2.64m (10’4″ x 8’8″). It also appears to be in need of some cosmetic help which might explain the drop of £5 just below our target price, to £299,995.

Skipton is a market town in North Yorkshire the railway connects the town to Leeds and Bradford in the east and Lancaster in the west. There are also reasonably good road connections from the town to York and Liverpool. It appears there is quite a lot of new development going on around the edges of the town as a number of the houses showing up in my search are new build. It certainly seems, by how long some of the properties have been on the market, that the speed of the market in this area is lower than in the south east. I also had to lower my search criteria a little — ie. look for cheaper properties — to find enough to compare!

The first on the list is this 3 bedroom end terrace. The description lists is as “substantial” although the three bedrooms aren’t exactly mind blowingly large. The kitchen and living rooms, on the other hand, have a floor each so are noticeably large (I am also a fan of 1st floor living rooms). It’s a little unclear to what extent the garden is your own — “…delightful gardens … surround the property to two sides. These are easily managed, level and ideal for Summer entertaining. From here one can walk onto the delightful communal lawned gardens…” — but at £295,000 it seems perfectly acceptable.

Heading down the prices quite a way to £269,500 we start to see properties which resemble those we have been looking at in Basingstoke. This 4 bedroom town house is layed out over 3 floors, has two balconies and an integral garage. It’s located very close to the railway station, so ideal for commuters. If we were looking for a property in this area, I think this would be one we were very much interested in.

Finally looking at Abergavenny, another market town, this time in south Wales. Here again the market seems slower but there are some very interesting properties (even newish builds, like this former Redrow show home). Prices here are a bit more recognisable when compared to the Surrey and Hampshire border.

At the top end of the price bracket comes this large 3-5 bedroom semi. (Unusually the agents have listed it as a 3 bed, even though the floorplan shows 5. I can only imagine that the headroom in the converted loft leaves something to be desired.) The property is pretty typical of the towns style. retains a range of period features and sits very centrally although it’s a bit of a walk to the railway station. The property doesn’t seem to benefit from double glazing although everything else seems modern.

This seems like a large property and yet comes in at a mere £275,000. Consisting of 4 bedrooms, one with en suite, a joined kitchen and dining room as well as separate lounge the property offers plenty of space. It’s located quite close to the town centre in an area of reasonably new development and on the same side as the station making it a reasonable choice for commuters to nearby cities. There isn’t a huge amount of garden space, but that’s what we’re looking for.

This final property is more of the style we have been looking at in Surrey and Hampshire, although it appears larger than most. The price is also very different at only £269,950. The garden of this property is lovely although perhaps a little high maintenance for us. In a very similar area to the previous property it looks like a very pleasent street within easy reach of the town and road and rail links. If we were searching in this area we would certainly be viewing this property, and having been on the market since September I would hope we’d be able to pick it up for under £250k.

Posted on Monday 14th December, 2015 at 9:29 am in Home, Uncategorized.
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