Should you buy in the city or the country?

Published by Harriet Meyer on 29 July 2013.
Last updated on 23 May 2014

When it comes to buying a home, you may be faced with the dilemma of staying in the big city, with friends, work and social life on your doorstep, or heading out to the countryside in search of green, open spaces, and a larger home.

"Historically, it was a natural migration for homeowners to sell up in the city and move out to the country. However, there has been a noticeable shift in recent years," says Tim Hubbard, partner at Property Vision.

"Work pressures have prevented some homeowners from moving, while people don't want to lose out in locations where prices are still rising, so it's a serious consideration whether to stick with an urban property or go rural," he adds.

Of course, there will be pros and cons to either location, but while the mechanics of buying and selling are the same, markets can differ widely. So it's important to make sure you're clued up, whether buying or selling an urban or rural property.

Here, we take a look at some of the important points to consider.

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Urban property

The advantages of an urban location include being close to amenities and job opportunities, and the chance to wipe out a long commute if you've lived far away from work. However, the flipside is that competition for popular properties can push up prices, which, while good for the seller, can prove stressful for buyers.

As a first step, consider your priorities. While plenty of coffee shops, delicatessens and estate agents may suggest a thriving area, you're likely to get less space for your money. "So think about whether you're prepared to compromise on property or garden size to get these benefits," says Paul Hopkins, managing director for property developer St James, of the Berkeley Group.

"If you're buying in a built-up neighbourhood, bear in mind that an area that appears to be peaceful during the day can turn into a swinging hotspot by night, so it's always a good idea to visit potential areas at different times during the day, evening and weekend."

Also, take into account what might affect selling the property in the future. Properties located away from major transport stations are generally lower in price than those that are better connected - but they also tend to be less appealing to buyers. If you are investing in a buy-to-let property in particular, good access to public transport is essential, alongside easy access to local amenities.

Investigate planned improvements to transport, as new links will signal a neighbourhood that is set for growth. Hopkins stresses: "Don't forget parking - even if you don't have a car, inadequate parking in an area will discourage future house owners with cars."

Finally, if you are interested in buying a new-build home in an urban area, make sure you carry out thorough research on any potential developer before you commit to a purchase.

Rural property

Many of us choose to migrate to the countryside to benefit from value for money and a slower, more relaxed lifestyle, with the added benefit of having fresh air and acres of countryside around to explore.

Buying in the country means you are more likely to be able to afford a larger property with a garden. However, buyers need to do their homework as some rural locations remain pricey. Rising property values have made rural housing less accessible. In 2012, only one in 17 rural local authority districts was deemed affordable, says Halifax. Areas are classified as unaffordable if the house price to earnings ratio is above the historical average of 4.0.

When you do find a property, make sure you check that your countryside vista or sea view isn't due to be replaced by a high rise. For England and Wales, the government's Planning Portal ( directs you to planning applications made in your neighbourhood. You can search by postcode and area.

It's also important to check how well connected your property is in a rural location, as mobile phone reception and internet connections can often be slow or unreliable. According to a Halifax survey, 30% of people say access to a good broadband signal is likely to affect their decision on whether to buy a property, while 20% say they would pay more for good broadband.

James Grillo, director of Chesterton Humberts' country homes department, says: "Prime county housebuyers are increasingly looking for excellent broadband and mobile connectivity as it is likely that in this sector of the market, a member of the household will be a senior executive who will increasingly work from home. This will also impact positively on property values and saleability outside the traditional prime commuter belt areas in the future."

Picking the right properties involves a number of practical considerations in a rural area, such as whether the commute to the station involves a car, as this will mean the added expense of fuel and parking.

When you do come to sell, the timing of a rural property sale - particularly one set to appeal to a family - is crucial. Many take place in March and April, as buyers want to move in the summer, ready for the new school term.

James Cleland, partner in Knight Frank's country department, says: "The key is to have photos taken in the spring or summer of the year before and be ready for a March launch."

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