MICHAEL LEITHHEAD OF ST ALBANS, HERTFORDSHIRE, WRITES:
My company is relocating to Cardiff. I wish to start my search quickly to be in place before the new school year in September.
My budget is £350,000 at most - ideally less. I live in a small two-bedroom property but I hope the more sensible prices of south Wales will allow me to step up.
I will need a three-bedroom family house - my wife and I have a young teenage daughter, and we require space for visitors, too. We've seen the building at Cardiff Bay, and like the suburban areas of the city too, but are tempted by some of the beautiful countryside close by. Are there properties in all of these areas within our price range?
I'd like to live in Cardiff or within a 30-minute driving radius.
Graham Norwood replies:
Phil Delaney of Halifax estate agents says the average house price in Cardiff stands at £162,888 - roughly half the upper end of your budget, so you will be able to buy something in a sought-after area. But local agents say the city's prices are unusually low because there is still a lot of relatively low-cost ex-council housing and small cottages in many suburbs.
Rival figures from the Principality Building Society, the biggest mortgage lender in Wales, show house prices in Cardiff now levelling off at £178,972.
Among the more popular parts of the city, Roath and Cathays are highly regarded by first-time buyers, private investors and young professionals. Local agents report interest in properties as soon as they come on to the market. Homes in Penylan and Pontprennau are also in high demand due to their proximity to the city centre, quick access to the M4 and leafy locations.
Bovis Homes, George Wimpey, Barratt, Bellway and Wilson Connolly are also building new homes throughout the city, while there are still new towers being built at Cardiff Bay - in recent years transformed into a haven for modern apartments overlooking a smart marina, but not ideal for family living.
Do not be afraid to be tough in your negotiations when buying. The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors says the level of properties now being put on sale in the Cardiff region is increasing at its fastest pace for five years. So by the time you visit it should be a buyer's market - you should have plenty to choose from and will be able to negotiate on price.
Property one: Victorian terraced house in Pontcanna suburb, Cardiff
Agent's details: if you fancy a restoration project this is a bargain, especially as it is large enough to work on in phases. This four-bedroom house is in one of the Welsh capital's most sought-after suburbs, Pontcanna, which has good local shopping facilities. The building is packed with original features and has front and rear gardens.
Agent: John Williams, 029 2055 2666
Property two: 11th-floor penthouse apartment, central Cardiff
Price: £250,000 (plus £2,500 annual maintenance charge).
Agent's details: not the most obvious of family homes but this three-bedroom property is big enough for your needs and is well inside your budget - and might be very popular with your daughter, as it is close to the city nightlife. There is a concierge and inside the apartment there is a 24-foot living room with windows on three sides Agent: Kelvin Francis, 029 2076 6538
Property three: Caerphilly Mountain bungalow
Agent's details: This is an unusual one. It is a large, architect-designed three-bedroom bungalow in the countryside at Caerphilly, with spectacular views from its conservatory over Caerphilly Mountain. It is just under 30 minutes' drive from the centre of Cardiff.
Agent: Morgan Lloyd Williams estate agent, 029 2052 1400.
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