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Buying. What is important and what's an OK compromise?

(45 Posts)
sellotape12 Mon 23-May-16 18:41:53

Now you’re a mum, in hindsight what factors were most important in choosing a place to live? Or does it really not matter?

We’re looking at some modest places in Crofton Park, Forest Hill and Sydenham in SE London. As I’m not quite yet a parent, I want to make sure we think about the right things now.

One place is close to a park, but the high street is a bit grotty and is 10 mins further from our friends.
Another is close to a great high street with cafes, libraries, etc, but has a small North-facing garden.
One other place has a big garden, on a quiet street near a school, but tiny bathroom and a 12-15 min walk to shops, cafes, train stations.
All have scope for extension..not that we’ll ever have a penny left ever again!

Of course, we may get none of them. I’m so brain-fogged I can’t decide what our priorities are though.

puggymummy1 Mon 23-May-16 19:05:37

I wouldn't let a North facing garden put you off. My current and last house are north facing and we had sun all day.

Smartiepants79 Mon 23-May-16 19:10:29

Garden size.
These three things cannot be changed. Most other things can be made the way you want them especially if there's scope to extend.

blinkowl Mon 23-May-16 19:12:22

A decent garden will be essential for me the next move.

We have a tiny bathroom and we've got used to it, it's fine.
But I've never got used to the tiny garden, I really wish the DC had more space to play.

Before, we lived next to a small before and I thought that would be a substitute for having no garden but it really wasn't. It's not the same as them being able to just get outside with no planning, when they're little. We thought we'd use the park loads, but we didn;t use it nearly as much as I thought we would.

What's the school like?

If it were me, I would check out the school. Getting into schools in London can be a nightmare! If it's a good school, I'd be tempted to go for the one that's got the big garden and a walk to the shops.

Although having said that, in London being near a great high street does have its advantages too, on paper that's my second choice of yours.

blinkowl Mon 23-May-16 19:13:19

Oops! That should say

Before, we lived next to a small park

WhatKatyDidnt Mon 23-May-16 19:14:52

If the grotty high street is Sydenham, bear in mind that while it might not be the most attractive, it is actually really handy and full of properly useful shops.

Being near a park is a massive plus with kids.

I wouldn't worry about North facing garden personally but I'm not a sun worshiper or a gardener.

blinkowl Mon 23-May-16 19:16:21

The thing about having a garden is you can just chuck them out in it to play. Do not underestimate how important this is! My DS can spend ages pottering around the garden in a way they just don't in the house. Plus they're getting fresh air and vitamin D.

Bertieboo1 Mon 23-May-16 19:22:07

Totally agree about the importance of a garden, this would be a deal breaker for me. Also agree that a small bathroom is not that big of a deal, ours is and we don't mind. No time for long soaks anyway smile

GibbousHologram Mon 23-May-16 19:23:48

Garden over park, garden will save your sanity in the toddler years.

Garden and park over bathroom. (Ours is tiny, it doesn't matter.)

Not sure about facilities, depends a bit on if you're going to be working, being SAHM, have car etc

What about schools?

Bertieboo1 Mon 23-May-16 19:24:34

Totally agree about the importance of a garden, this would be a deal breaker for me. Also agree that a small bathroom is not that big of a deal, ours is and we don't mind. No time for long soaks anyway smile

Salmiak Mon 23-May-16 19:36:19

Different people have different priorities - we bought our house when dd was 2 (not in London)

Things we love about our house - parking space so we can always park by our house and carry sleeping dc straight in. Lots of built in storage - toys/junk go into built in cupboards and once they are shut the place looks tidy, downstairs loo (helpful for playdates). It's 2 minutes away from a good primary school so our school run is simple.

We have a small garden - it's mainly used for drying the laundry when the weather is ok, occasionally we get a paddling pool out and about once a year we bbq. We spend far more time in the nearby playground (where the dc can run about properly) than in the garden.

I do wish we were less than a 20 minute walk from the high street but it's doable, living closer would have meant compromising on an extra bedroom and parking which we weren't prepared to do.

fluffikins Mon 23-May-16 19:40:17

I've got a 1'year old and in we're in the process of moving from a 3 bed semi to a 4 bed. The things I wanted were a bigger garden and living room or a big open plan family area where I can pen off an area for toys. I've been stuck on a tiny living room with the baby pretty much all year and it's driving me crazy!

GoodSouls Mon 23-May-16 20:09:53

I live close by, all 3 areas have strong plus and minus points I think so if the house is what makes your mind up and not the location I would go for the big garden and quiet street, my children love being in our garden and they use it as an extention of their bedroom.
Forest hill has tiny catchment areas for its primary schools so maybe check how many meters you are from them. Good luck with your choice, I like living around here.

sellotape12 Tue 24-May-16 09:24:38

Yes I did mean Sydenham, sorry! Didn't mean to be disparaging. We looked there on a rainy day in Feb, and it seemed like run down shops plus then my MIL got her phone stolen after being 'bumped' into. Maybe we we being ignorant though.

Seems a garden is top of everyone's list :-)

namechangedtoday15 Tue 24-May-16 09:34:51

Schools would be my absolute top priority as it has a massive impact on your lives - children will make friends, you'll make friends, you'll worry about how well they're doing, whether they're happy. A school that you're happy with removes so much angst.

Then a garden and ideally open-ish layout where you can be as a family / with friends.

Doesn't really matter (to me) whether you're 15 mins or 20 mins away from the high street - once you've got organised with buggy etc, an extra 5 or so mins makes v little difference.

pinkdelight Tue 24-May-16 09:52:36

Another vote for schools. It didn't cross our mind when we bought our house before having kids, then we realised we were in one of London's many 'black holes' and had to move again before the DC turned 4. So don't just assume that because there's a school in the vicinity that it's close enough. Check the admission distances info in the council brochure and/or speak to the school office. There's obviously no guarantees, but whilst you still have options, it's best to take this into account over and above some of the other factors. On the three examples you've given, only the third mentions school so that's the one I'd go for. Small bathroom and short walk to shops is fine. Often that's what it takes to have a nicer area and 'quiet' for London is relative. Parking is also useful with a DC, if you drive, that is.

whois Tue 24-May-16 09:57:43

For kids:
1. Schools
2. Garden. You'll spend almost all your time pottering about in the Garden in the summer. In reality you won't go to the park nearly as much as you think you will.

Tiny bathroom - who cares. You don't hang out in there! As long as there is a bath toilet and sink with some space for a cupboard or shelving for baskets of stuff you're fine.

Super near cafes and train etc - not that bothered with kids, a 15 min walk is fine. However if one of you has to commute then being <10 mins from station is preferable.

DiggersRest Tue 24-May-16 10:08:00

Definitely garden, doesn't have to be huge but enough space for toddler. We're in London and tbh we don't spend that much time at home, only when it's hot and our garden is big enough for padding pool, bbbq, outdoor table and slide. Any bigger and l would feel like I have to use it more!

Being close to school is very handy but as you don't have dc yet l would prefer to be close to high street and station.

TreadSoftlyOnMyDreams Tue 24-May-16 10:24:13

One place is close to a park, but the high street is a bit grotty and is 10 mins further from our friends.
So no garden? They are a bit of a sanity saver when it's warm enough to potter around but you only have 30mins or so, so going to the park isn't really worth the effort. Also dead handy if you have a second child as your older child can potter while you feed a smaller one.
Grotty high st? Meh - I don't know anyone with small children who has time to shop. Ocado in the wee hours while you are feeding. As long as there is somewhere to buy emergency milk, a pharmacy, a strong coffee on the way to the park and a takeaway you can cover your bases !

Another is close to a great high street with cafes, libraries, etc, but has a small North-facing garden.
Lovely while on mat leave [the high st] but if you are going back to work will you spend a lot of time there?
One other place has a big garden, on a quiet street near a school, but tiny bathroom and a 12-15 min walk to shops, cafes, train stations.
Does it have an actual bath? Bit of a pain to shower a child, never mind 2.

All have scope for extension..not that we’ll ever have a penny left ever again!
You won't - childcare is going to consume every penny assuming you are going back to work and don't have family living locally to provide it FOC. So anything you choose now is likely to be close to a 10yr home unless you move out of London. [Stamp duty costs alone are a barrier to moving around]

Extending - If it's a leasehold or share of freehold then extending is a bit of a production. If it's just a little house all your own then check out what the neighbours have done. It may be very easy to move a wall and squeeze in a slightly expanded bathroom.

Priority :

Proximity to a good state primary school
Proximity to a good nursery/childcare facility
Proximity to a station [assuming you will both be working and will need to cover drop offs and pick ups around work]
Zipcar or equivalent service is a bonus
Proximity to family/friends who will help out in an emergency
Proximity to friends with children
Proximity to other friends

TreadSoftlyOnMyDreams Tue 24-May-16 10:25:33

STORAGE - a loft, a shed, whatever. Sheer space is your friend. Kids come with an awful lot of STUFF most of it not bought by you!

Artistic Tue 24-May-16 10:26:51

If it's a north facing garden, then it will have sun if your house & neighbours are not too tall and not too close. Otherwise a small/medium north facing garden may not get much sun which would make it cold and wet and pretty useless. We had a long north facing garden once in a terraced house and the first 10 feet hardly ever saw any sun. Too many slugs on the cold and wet patio. It got better in the peak of summer for a few weeks. But I know people who have huge North facing gardens and an extension into the non-sun patch so don't really have the same problem that we did. Be careful if you buy a North facing garden.

Artistic Tue 24-May-16 10:29:58

Off street parking would be high on my list with small children too.

EssentialHummus Tue 24-May-16 10:33:20

Just to add that Crofton Park and possibly Forest Hill (I don't know it as well) can be tricky for school catchments, like most of Lewisham. I'm up the road in Brockley and we have the same issue here.

I'm in a similar position to you - no children yet, looking for a longer-term home than our two-bed flat. I'm prioritising schools and a small garden, or schools and very close proximity to a park.

Crofton Park and the surrounding area is seeing lots of new cafes and restaurants - one opened today! -, and shopping is "OK" if nothing to write home about.

MangoMoon Tue 24-May-16 10:41:45

Babies to toddlers:
Decent sized garden
Walking distance to park

Primary aged children:
Decent sized garden
Walking distance to park
Walking distance to school

Secondary aged children:
Able to go places with friends, like swimming, cinema, playing fields, shops etc.
Good transport links.

IAmAPaleontologist Tue 24-May-16 10:49:19

For your list the quiet with good garden near school would be the one. Bathroom can always be changed and anyway, do you really spend that much time in a bathroom? Living space is more important. The walk to the shops isn't far and that sort of distance is great with young kids to get them out and active with a walk or cycle to get the paper/ Sunday morning treat at the weekend.

We compromised on garden, we have a postage stamp at the front but we are very close to a park and just treat the park as the back garden.

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