Weblog on the Internet and public policy, journalism, virtual community, and more from David Brake, a Canadian academic, consultant and journalist
20 April 2006
Filed under:Personal,Useful web resources at10:40 pm

It’s like some kind of sadistic exercise in massively multivariate calculus. You need to be able to afford it of course (impossible on the face of it), you need to choose a neighborhood (based on schools? transport? social cachet? shopping areas?) but that’s just the beginning. Do you need a house or do you want a flat? In a block or in a converted house or perhaps in a new development? In good condition or needing work? Can you live with a ‘bedroom’ 2 metres wide? Do you need a garden or will a roof terrace or a balcony do? Do you care if it is leasehold (yours for 99 years – or less) or freehold? Do you want to try to increase the amount of space in your place to be by adding a loft conversion? If so what would that cost and would the neighbors let you? (Actually you will never know until you buy…)

The Internet has helped a lot – | can normally find out floor plans and exact property locations online. I can even look up the quality of the local schools and the social class of the neighbors using upmystreet! But I have found in recent flat visits that rooms that are smaller ‘on plan’ look bigger when you see them, so you can only go so far online. Plus helpfully estate agents calculate the overall size of flats differently – some count bathrooms, some don’t for example. And London houses being what they are you often get irregularly-shaped rooms so the dimensions can be deceptive. One unusual place we have looked at has about 40% ‘marginally useful space’ which makes the place feel better (or helps with storage) but which don’t help in terms of places to put beds, chairs etc…

Still, after about two weeks of intensive searching I think we will have found our new nest soon – just about the time when the child we are buying it for makes an appearance!

Update:  We are buying the ‘quirky’ place above and I am warming to it – particularly given the amount of potential it has for improvement. So it is possible to find a flat in London. You just have to be prepared to spend a fortune and two solid weeks nearly full-time running around looking at a series of more or less unsuitable properties.

As for the school situation – our situation is unusual in that we want to bring up our child in a bilingual school environment which may mean private schooling (much though that goes against my principles). So location doesn’t matter so much (though in fact the nearest primary school is in the top 25% of schools nationally according to the league table so we wouldn’t have to move to get a good school anyway.)


  1. Well:

    Barry Schwartz. The Paradox of Choice. More choice does not make us happier consumers.

    By and large, the rule of 3 holds. More than 3 possible choices, we are less satisfied with our choice.

    So try to map our your key 5-6 criteria, find 3 properties which fit, and make a choice.

    Remember in property: you can never buy the house you want, because if you can, you should be buying a lesser house, on a better street.

    So, like a shark that is always doomed to be hungry (a survival mechanism forged in oceans 250m years ago), a househunter is always doomed to be slightly unhappy.

    Comment by John — 25 April 2006 @ 1:29 pm

  2. That previous comment sounds both apt and depressing. Property purchases are out of control in all developed countries right now, and several underdeveloped ones, so the odds are you may end up overpaying if you do find the place of your (current) dreams. But, in all likelihood, as long as the place you decide upon suits at least 75% of your criteria and 100% of your gut instinct, you should be fine.

    And if you should find you’re unhappy in 5 years, move again before the school situation becomes an issue.

    Comment by Justin Kownacki — 28 April 2006 @ 7:15 am

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