The so called credit crunch ( euphamism for money lenders getting caught with their trowsers down ) is leading to a high rate of house repossessions. These houses are usually put out to auction to capitalise the debt. And houses can be bought for very little if you are not so fussy about where you live and the finance in place to buy. But in a falling price market its a risky business as you could still end up with negative equity.
In other words, until the market picks up, its not really a good time to be buying property right now. Especially as no one knows how deep this recession will be. The first to get hit will be the freelance market which is a big part of the IT industry. I have seen this happen twice over the years. Its a very easy way for companies to save money by chopping all their freelance staff and that makes the permanent IT staff market even more difficult to enter into than it already is. But I guess that if you have a job offer before moving then that's not such a problem, especially if the company you are working for in Italy is moving you over here. But if that were the case, then they should be paying the moving costs for you.
Rob - I have places in Leeds and Croydon, but was permanently exiled in Leeds for a while; I guess updating my APUG profile wasn't top of my priorities ;-).
As to the credit crunch - if you're buying to invest, now is not a good time. If you are buying somewhere to live on the other hand, the value of your property is irrelevant as long as you can keep paying the mortgage and now is as good a time as any - you can drive a harder bargain now than at any time in the recent past. If you're a good credit risk the banks will bite your hand off to give you a mortgage - it's people who overextended themselves, lied about their incomes on self-certify loans and people buying homes assuming the market would pay instead of them who are the main casualties of the 'credit crunch' ('return to sane lending' being a more accurate phrase.)
House price changes is a valid point. House prices in the UK have fallen generally in the last year except, notably or the sake of this discussion, in most of London and the immediate vicinity so you really need to check the particular area carefully in respect to this. Prices in Crawley for example have risen but probably not in all areas of Crawley.
The advice to rent for the first six months is an excellent one. There is no shortage of rental property and although not cheap (the high house prices of London and environs makes sure of that) the time renting allows you to investigate something more permanent could save you an expensive error.
I also agree that you should budget £2,000-£2,500 for legal and other fees and perhaps another £500-600 for a more detailed survey on the house. There are several levels of survey: a basic one to satisfy the lender that the house is a good credit risk (this is NOT recommended as the only survey conducted), a medium level one that checks most things but does not include investigation into structural matters unless they are visibly obvious, and a full structural survey where the surveyor pokes into all aspects of the house and it's structure, pulling up floorboards, digging down to foundations etc if necessary. Needless to say, the cost increases accordingly. The seller pays all the Estate Agent's fees so that will not effect you as a buyer.
House prices can be difficult to understand as an otherwise identical house 100 metres away can be worth substantially more due to a number of reasons such as school catchment areas, proximity to transport links, distance from less desirable areas etc. This is heightened in and around London due to the high population density. Because of this, I would not advise buying a house on the back of a few visits to the country; wait until you have been here a while and can view the local area at your leisure and at different times of the day.
A useful site to investigate a particular area, once you have narrowed your favourite areas down a little is www.upmystreet.com. You type in the area - preferably the full postcode (it will take partial postcodes, whole town names or named areas of towns and cities but a full postcode is much more precise as it identifies an area of a handful of houses). The menu on the left hand side then allows you to investigate that area.
I've lived in West London most of my life so am not really closely familiar with Crawley at all (except that I know it is a popular commuter town) but a general rule is that there are nice, and not so nice, parts of any town and they can often be within 200 metres of each other - hence the need to investigate on the ground, in person.
To recap: do rent for the first 6 months while you sort out something more permanent. Your costs over and above the house will be £2,000-3,000 + 1% of the house price up to £250,000 and 3% of the price over £250,000 (up to £500,000 when it becomes 4%) plus the cost of moving your goods to England. Council taxes are typically £1,200-1,400 per year.
Oh, and you will not be alone in London being from Italy: it is estimated (exact figures are impossible) that 1/3rd of people currently living in London were born outside the UK and there is of course a large Italian community here.
Good luck, Bob.
This site could be worth a look:
what does this question have to do with analogue photography?
aren't there better and more realiable places to ask such questions?
When I placed my flat on the market last September I was advised to budget about £5000 for solicitors, surveyors, HIPS and other moving costs. Up until the end of April I had just three people view. I have now taken the flat off the market until things settle.
you might find this site useful: http://www.mortgagetalk.co.uk/buying...alculator.aspx.
You mention you have two pre-school children. In England education is compulsory from age 5, but many local schools will start taking children as young as 3 into nursery classes for 1/2 a day. I suggest you contact the Local Education Authority for the areas you are looking at to find out what is on offer. Of course, if you will be wealthy enough to take the private education route I'm sure you can find professional bodies ready to help you out.
As other's have indicated, house prices can vary enormously, often connected to how 'good' the local schools are.