10:13 16 September 2007
We are all familiar with the house-buyers' mantra: 'The three most important things when you are buying a home are location, location and location'. The saying is so well-known that they even named a television programme after it, but what does it really mean? One person's ideal location might be miles away - in every sense - from someone else's.
Matthew Hallett of property specialists Strutt & Parker says that there are as many different definitions as there are home-owners, and it's all about how we want to organise and run our lives - but perhaps a better phrase would be 'location, situation and setting'.
It's a very particular difference, as Matthew explains, "Location is very much about things like commuting and the ease of access to everything from schools and shops to churches and golf clubs - and, of course, the quality of those resources.
"Situation is the bigger picture; the surroundings, the proximity of countryside, and the way that the property relates to a nearby village, town or city. The setting is, quite simply, where the house is and how it sits in relation to the rest of the property and neighbouring houses."
Location, situation and setting
Most people would agree that the location, situation and setting of a home are actually more important than the house itself. As Matthew adds, "It's true to say that the vast majority of us do have to compromise to some degree or other so far as our homes are concerned. We can adapt to our surroundings though and can make a house into a home and be entirely happy with it. However, if we're not happy when we step out of the front door it becomes much more of a problem."
Our priorities differ at the different stages of our lives too; what will be the perfect location for a couple in their twenties might not be quite so appealing for a retired couple. Priorities change just as we do.
Someone buying their first home - perhaps in their twenties and maybe single or even recently married - are more likely to look for good commuting and easy access to evening amenities such as clubs, pubs and a cinema.
But nothing defines a good location so far as parents are concerned as much as well-regarded schools. At this point good road and rail links are at their most important too.
Once the children have grown up and left home it's no longer vital to be right in the middle of things, and when we retire commuting becomes unimportant; indeed, getting away from commuting routes can be a big advantage. The ideal location might now be quieter - even sleepy, but there might also be a new requirement based on particular interests; perhaps we would want to be nearer a river or the coast so that we can indulge a passion for sailing - or less than an hour from an airport to make foreign travel easier.
The other factor, which is always relevant but does become more important as people get older, is being surrounded by like-minded neighbours.
Matthew, who is based at Strutt & Parker's Winchester office says, "We are tribal creatures and are happiest when we are surrounded by people who are like ourselves and reflect our values. This is most obvious in gated communities for older people, or waterfront developments for those who are most at home in a boat, or - as we are increasingly seeing - exclusive new developments grouped around golf courses."
The best area
One thing that every expert agrees on is that - no matter your definition of the ideal location - it's far better to buy a lesser property in a good area than to buy a better than average one in a less well thought of area. Better to be in a more modest house in the smart end of town than in a grander house surrounded by poorer houses. Not only are you likely to see a higher rise in value over time, but every time you step out you can put a nice big tick by location, situation and setting. n
Matthew Hallett, Strutt & Parker Winchester.
Tel: 01962 890077; www.struttandparker.com