Over the last few decades it’s fair to say that most buyers have seen a house as an investment as much as anything else. Everybody expects their house to be worth more next year than it was last. And for anybody already owning a property (but not for those who don’t) it can feel good when house prices take a steep jump, as they have over the last few years.
But it’s easy to forget that first and foremost a house should be a home. It should be for nesting rather than investing. So right now, when property prices are looking more uncertain, might be a good time to think less about the investment potential and more about the living potential when buying a house.
How do you buy a home for nesting rather than investing?
Here are a few tips:
Don’t be distracted by the idea of the ‘property ladder’. The property ladder puts house buyers into broadly five categories: Singles, young families, older families, empty nesters and retirees. The broad idea is that you need another house at each stage of your life.
While the property ladder is very popular with estate agents, because it keeps people moving, it doesn’t always make a lot of sense for buyers. Moving home several times can be very expensive, and it is also stressful. The idea of finding a forever home makes much more sense in many ways.
Choose an area you like. Really, really like. Location, location, location is an often repeated slogan in the property market and it’s true. The one thing you can never do with a house is change its location. So choose a location that will work for you in the long term.
When it come to location there’s a reason that the suburbs are perennially popular. No one knows what our city and town centres will be like going forward. And while rural properties have been very popular over the last couple of years remote locations are impractical for many people.
Set your budget. But be willing to stretch it as far as you can whilst still keeping everything affordable. Avoiding having to move by buying a forever home can save you thousands of pounds, which you can put into your new home. And, as house prices rise, that bigger house will be cheaper to buy now than it will be in 10 years.
Think about what sort of house you need now. And about what sort of house you will need in 10 or 20 years. Will you have children by then? Will you have more children? Will you be an empty nester? Will you be retired? Try and choose a home which will work both now .... and then.
For anyone with children, or planning on having them, school catchment areas (particularly secondary schools) remain crucial when choosing a home for nesting. They override pretty much everything else.
If you buy anything .... buy space. The biggest reason most people give for moving house is that they want or need more space. And it’s cheaper to buy the extra space you might need in the future now, rather than in the future.
Buying space needn’t involve buying a bigger property now, especially if it’s beyond your budget. It could simply involve buying a property which has the space to build an extension in the future.
Think flexibility. Aim to buy a home that offers flexibility. One that can be changed as you and your needs change. Rather than one that is inflexible and which will make it more likely you’ll need to move.
Open plan homes are great for flexibility. Homes with partition rather than structural walls make it easy to remove (or add) walls as your needs change too.
Annexes are fairly rare in UK homes at the moment but they can make a lot of sense. An annexe can be used as an extra living room, as a home office, to house dependant relatives, a teenage suite, or a ground floor bedroom when you’re older. In times when you don’t need the space yourself it could be rented out as a studio flat or perhaps even a holiday home.
In many ways, although the idea of moving up the property ladder and making a profit every time you do is an appealing one nesting rather than investing is much more attractive. Long term it stands to save you money and will certainly save you all the stress that moving can involve.