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Alfie Bear

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  1. I know the area well and do that commute every day - fyi the train service is generally ok and you always get a seat (so long as willing to sit towards back of train in the mornings), although they did have some train driver 'issues' towards the end of last year. Anyhow, here is a brief summary of your options: Bushey: basically a distant surburb of London and the station is on the outskirts of Watford rather than in the nicer parts of Bushey (eg. Bushey Heath). Watford: usually dismissed as a bit of a dump but parts of it are actually ok (especially around Cassionbury Park, which is about a 15-min walk from Watford Junction). You get the pick of the trains as well as the Overground option when the main line has problems. Obviously you also get all the 'big town' advantages and disadvantages. Kings Langley: almost certainly well within your budget - very convenient with the M25 literally on your doorstep, whilst some of the lovely Chiltern countryside begins nearby. The station isn't in the village centre whilst it has always felt a bit dead to me though it does have some nice roads particularly to the west of the High Street. Apsley: basically a suburb of Hemel, dominated by a series of new-build developments around the canal and the retail development (Sainsburys, Homebase etc.). It certainly doesn't have the village type setting you are looking for but again certainly well within budget for the most part. I think I'm right in saying that both Apsley and Kings Langley get fewer trains than say Watford, Hemel and Berkhamsted. Hemel Hempstead: the majority of the town is really not very nice unfortunately (albeit improving slowly) but luckily the station is situated in the nicest part (Boxmoor). There are some nice character houses just the other side of the canal/common from the station within easy walking distance - you are also close to Hemel town centre which is useful albeit not very salubrious. Plenty of people live in nice villages like Sarratt, Chipperfield and Flaunden and commute via Hemel station. Berkhamsted: a beautiful bustling market town surrounded by the rolling Chiltern hills and on the edge of Ashridge (some of the loveliest countryside near to London). Unfortunately the prices reflect this although there are some cheaper roads to the west of the town (including several 1980s/1990s developments), albeit a long trek from the station. There are also plenty of small terraced houses within your budget in the oldest and prettiest parts of the town around the canal and (private) school - these are also particularly handy for the station eg. Castle Street, Manor Road etc. Potten End is a pleasant village about two miles up the hill from Berkhamsted and easily commutable via the latter's station. If you are willing to drive another 10-15mins then you can consider other villages like Lilttle Gaddesden which is gorgeous, but pricey. Ashley Green meanwhile is only a mile from Berkhamsted but actually in Bucks which might be handy for the grammar school option (though kids in Herts are not precluded per se). Tring: like Berkhamsted, also surrounded by beautiful countryside - the historic town centre is pretty and has plenty of amenities eg. M&S but the station is about two miles away in the middle of nowhere (or strictly speaking in an area literally called 'Tring Station'). It is however at least 20% or so cheaper than Berkhamsted and the housing market is less competitive - in my view like Kings Langley, it can sometimes feel a bit dead though. However the beautiful village of Aldbury is only a mile or so from the station and is really picture-perfect but I suspect houses rarely come up for sale and are likely pricey and snapped up quickly - worth a look though. Once you get north of here you are stretching the desire for a 30-40min commute - unless you live right next to the station, you will be more than an hour from Euston 'door to door'.
  2. We've seen a house we like, but based upon comparables and price per sq ft etc.., it's at least 15% overpriced. I offered 20% below the asking price and not surprisingly was rejected. Anyhow the agent let slip which house the vendors want to move to (which remains on the market, albeit 'under offer'). This house is listed with the same agent, and hence if they sell the house we like they will effectively ensure two commissions so they are clearly keen that the house sells quickly. I'm thinking of viewing and then expressing a very keen interest in the house the vendors wish to move to - it is nearby and also within our budget (so we are perfectly entitled to ask to see it). I would then put in a good offer on that house, and what's more mine would be 'chain-free' unlike theirs. This would hopefully serve to persuade the vendors to sell me their house at my offer price (or near to it), else they risk losing their dream house (to me). Admittedly the key is to ensure you appear credible about buying the second property (which I'm probably not as it's too big for what we need), but is there any ethical argument not to proceed on this basis? What would I have to lose?
  3. I've found a nice house which I'm struggling to determine 'fair value' for. It is 2000 sq ft (incl. 300 sq ft garage) and 4-bedrooms. However it has a fabulous 1/2 acre garden which must be amongst the very largest in the area (sought after Herts commuter town). Comparable properties with 250-300 sq ft of extra space but much smaller gardens have similar (or lower) asking prices. Does the garden really justify the valuation? Obviously each potential buyer is different but generally? I'm confident what fair value would be with a regular garden (£725k) - how much premium should the garden add?
  4. I'm currently renting in a nearby village called Felden, but am trying to find somewhere to buy in Berkhamsted. I think it's a great town - I'm not from the area so don't have a 'vested' interest as such. Funnily enough I've been asking myself the exact opposite question ie. why isn't it more expensive (at least compared to other nearby commuter towns like Harpenden or St Albans, neither of which holds much appeal for me)? It has a wide range of different properties from tiny 2-bed canal-side cottages and newbuild flats, and as a result is not a soulless town just for rich people. It has a pleasant High Street full of individual shops, an amazing cinema, good pubs/restaurants (even more so in the nearby villages), a great tennis/squash club in the centre of town, the canal, plenty of character (partly due to the steep hills of the valley it's sat in), and it's on the edge of some of the nicest countryside within 50 miles of London. What's not to like? (ps - if you think the small estates on the edge of Berkhamsted are bad [and I'm not sure they're not mostly privately-owned now anyhow], then you need to spend more time in Hemel!)
  5. Thanks for the comments. I guess my issue is not so much the need to do the checks in the first place, but who pays. If I was a landlord in a 'soft' market and a prospective tenant was interested in renting my property, I think I'd move heaven and earth to get them in there, after making the requisite checks that I wouldn't think twice about paying for. It annoys me even more when the landlord appoints an agent and still expects the tenant to pay the agency's costs - I know we're only talking a few quid, but it's the principal. It'd be like me asking the landlord to pay my moving costs (actually, that gives me an idea). It seems to me that perhaps with the exception of the very low end of the market, the landlord has far more to lose than a potential tenant in this situation.
  6. Is it normal/standard for a prospective tenant to pay for the cost of their credit/reference checks? I think I've tended to agree to pay for these in the past because the agency usually just stuffed them into their contracts, but in a renters market I'm unhappy in principle with the idea that I pay the landlord/agency for someone to check my credit (I know my credit is ok). Is this just one of those things that you either bother to argue over (and risk losing a property you like), or turn a blind eye to? Also, has anyone successfully attempted to run their own checks on a landlord's financial situation? Is there any way to find out if they have a mortgage on the property, and if so how large? Is it ridiculous to even ask as a prospective tenant for proof of his or her financial situation? Any advice gratefully received, thanks.
  7. Does anyone have any insight into the market in Berkhamsted? There seem to be very few properties on the market, and these are asking 2007 peak prices, hence a waste of time even viewing for me at least. As someone currently living abroad but returning to the UK (and seeking some guidance), how does Berkhamsted compare on the usual metrics (schools, commuting, quality of life etc..) to other similar nearby towns like Amersham, Beaconsfield or Harpenden? Thanks, AB.
  8. I'm 36 years old and have never bought a property - having saved hard and avoided debt, I'm potentially in a position to buy a family home (£500k+) with a 40-50% type deposit. I had always assumed I was in a very strong position by virtue of the deposit and the lack of a chain, but friends have warned me that my lack of credit history will still have me viewed as a 'first-time buyer' (which I guess I am by strict definition). I guess my question relates to the disadvantages thereof - when you see 'first time buyer' mortgages advertised, are these typically at worse interest rates, or do they simply assume lower deposits. In other words if you are a 'first time buyer' but with a large deposit, is it safe to assume you will be considered as safe a risk as a previous owner-occupier with the same amount of equity? (other factors eg. job security etc. not withstanding) Any advice gratefully received thanks.
  9. Does anyone have some up-to-date info on Harpenden prices? Is any sense of reality creeping in to sellers expectations? As someone potentially interested in moving there (from abroad), do you have any candid views on its pros and cons as a place to live? The prices are somewhat absurd, but to what extent does it merit them? thanks
  10. ...not as much money as I did 12 months ago unfortunately, but I'll take a look thanks ps - we live in Manhattan, not Westchester County (although I agree that the latter is beautiful, and reportedly beginning to crater in price finally).
  11. I can definitely wait, although having two young kids in the space of 22 months has ignited my nesting instincts (not to mention the wife's). Running the risk of having to move every year gets increasingly burdensome when kids enter the equation.
  12. Can you recommend perhaps some underrated towns that are less overpriced? Will look at anywhere within reasonable commuting radius of London, north of the Thames. Is Beaconsfield really any more overpriced than say Gerrards X, St Albans, or Harpenden? Have been abroad for several years so perhaps some places have improved, but not currently on my radar screen. Some clearly cheaper options include say Hertford, Welwyn Garden City, Letchworth, and Tring (but I presumed all are a bit rough round the edges, and likely to get more so in a recession). Thanks for everyone's advice.
  13. I was wondering if anyone had any advice about how best to negotiate with housebuilders. Given they are effectively the only true 'forced sellers' in the market, I'm tempted by the idea of getting a good 25% type discount if I find the right place (ie. not one of those awful lego places shunted between a railway line and car showroom). I'm a first-time buyer (thus please excuse my ignorance) with a hefty deposit and thus can move quickly, which hopefully improves my bargaining power. Am currently living abroad which makes the process somewhat harder, but is an exploratory email on the lines of "what type of discount would you consider?" a waste of time? What type of discounts to the list price is reasonable? Has anyone recently successfully negotiated a big discount? Am looking for a family house in Herts/Bucks area, in fairly 'sought after' areas eg. Beaconsfield.
  14. Funnily enough, we live in the US (New York) but are moving back - maybe we should do a house swap?! Thanks for the info....
  15. Hi Does anyone have a view on which of the surrounding villages (eg. Hyde Heath, Sarratt, Chenies etc..) are the most desirable? Also, how does Amersham compare to Berkhamsted as a place to live, considering things to do, house prices, schools, commuting etc..? Am I correct in thinking both are somewhat cheaper than Beaconsfield/Gerrards X, but not for any obvious reason? Thanks (we are living abroad but plan to return, likely to Bucks/Herts) Alfie
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