Vote with your head when looking for a long-term home
RECENT debate about the merits of our voting system has got me wondering about my own sphere of influence and how democratic the process of choosing a house is.
If you think about it, while there is an initial gut reaction to a property when you first walk through the door there are an awful lot of other aspects which have to be taken into consideration, weighed-up and prioritised before purchase. It’s not just the obvious priorities such as affordability, accommodation and, the estate agent’s mantra, location, location, location.
Within a family unit, however nuclear or extended, priorities are going to be different for each member, so there’s a coalition of interests to balance too, just to add to the democratic analogy.
It has always been common knowledge within the property world that it’s the females of a household who actually decide which property is bought and although I espouse the benefits of a democratic system, it is the system we currently enjoy i.e. proportional representation rather than the alternative voting system. One man one vote that has just received a No vote from the country.
With this in mind and with the express purpose of maintaining harmony during what can be the fraught experience of finding a new home, it seems only sensible that the male vote should count as two against the female one.
Initially, for a couple forming an alliance for the first time in buying a home, the requirements are usually simple and dictated of course by available funds and borrowings. They require space to enjoy both inside the home and outside in the garden, proximity to places of work and shopping and also to places of leisure whether that’s city living and access to bars and restaurants or the more bucolic enjoyments of parks and the countryside.
But as this alliance grows stronger and children come into the picture, the landscape shifts significantly. Not only that, but if you are intending that the property sees you through the years while the family grows, priorities will change so in an ideal world, the accommodation and layout should give flexibility.
Parents of infants and young children want a property with a layout that gives the proximity to their children at all times so that a watchful eye and keen ear can be kept, whether indoors or out in the garden.
For teenagers and, more often than not, their parents too, distance and privacy away from the hubbub of the heart of the home is very important. Open-plan living may suit a couple or even a young family, but teenagers are often fiercely protective of their own private space.
But then when you come back to location, the property’s distance to schools and colleges is always a key priority for families whatever the age of the children.
When the time comes, taking care of an elderly relative within the home can put added pressure on families. Having additional space to accommodate the needs of another generation can alleviate some of the strain and can lead to a more happy home life. The ability to consider how your family set-up can live in the property now and in five, 10 or 15 years time is crucial if you are looking for a long-term home.
So, like politicians, it’s important that you have the ‘vision thing’ when you are house hunting.
I’ve been in the estate agency profession for more than 20 years – that’s a period covering five prime ministers – and I have yet to see a house purchase made that didn’t involve any element of compromise in weighing-up preferences and priorities against gut instincts. It’s a question of balancing heart and head.
But whatever the outcome in choosing which property to buy, much like voting, the most important thing is that you feel you’ve made an informed decision.