Sometimes finding the right house is not an easy proposition. Jo kindly shares her story of the trials and tribulations of the house hunt.
My husband and I both moved to London for work almost twenty years ago, with no other ties to the city. We met through a mutual friend 13 years ago, bought a house in 2008 and married in 2014. Although we had great intentions, our house was never truly 'home'. We lived in a fabulously green corner of the capital with a relatively tight community but our jobs meant that aside from a weekend walk we never really made the most of it or joined in. Truly in a rat race rut! Our catalyst for change was paying off our mortgage in 2015.
Suddenly our reason to work so hard melted away and we began to resent our roles. We experimented with flexible working, but our living space and proximity to neighbours didn't make for a productive work environment - plus we were also still fitting life around work.
It was another good few months of just talking about relocating before we made a definite plan. Deciding not to have children was a positive breakthrough because it helped us to agree on house style, size and location. Then came the hard part about where to move to. While we were at that research stage we did some sensible financial planning - boring but this gave us the confidence to both quit our jobs, removing our very last excuse to stay. Game on!
Narrowing down the geography
We steered clear of cities to avoid slipping back into our old job habits and the East Midlands seemed perfect to keep our travel and work options open. We focused on market towns, having visited some villages and finding them too quiet. We picked two for mini-breaks. Actually viewing houses 120 miles away though was intense. To start with we did 8-10 a day and were exhausted. When we had a better idea of what we wanted, we went up for day trips to see 2 or 3 which became more manageable. We always travelled on foot between appointments to get a better feel. My one piece of advice on that is - don't underestimate how expensive a distance hunt can be - trains, accommodation, food, drinks and chances are you're going to be doing that trip quite regularly at the research stage.
The headache of buying and selling
The process of selling and buying was totally horrific and took six months end to end. On the one hand it was useful to not be working when admin needed doing, but work would have been a welcome distraction from the frequent problems that needed to be sorted out. I can highly recommend the 'House Buying' board on the Money Saving Expert forums, which has several dedicated threads for people at various stages in the house transaction process. Virtual cheers and hugs aplenty there! Even if you just lurk and read it helps you realise you're not alone.
Despite all of that it has been so, so worth it.
The dream finally began
We moved in shortly before Christmas and so we started the year raring to go: life first, job second. My husband now works three days a week - one in London and two from home. I'm exploring remote contracting as an interim occupation until I decide what to do properly. We doubled the house size from the proceeds so both of us have offices and, finally, guest bedrooms for our queue of friends.
We've already met neighbours (we never managed that in London) and people chat in the street or in shops. We've both joined the gym for less than my old single membership used to cost. The joining hasn't stopped there: library, reading group, gaming group, the co-operative. We've booked to go to the theatre here already and are astounded at how many big stars come to our local venues. Date night meals no longer bankrupt us. We can't wait until the weather is better to explore the surrounding countryside, maybe on bikes (eek!)
Life After London is great...and the joy is London is still there whenever I want to visit.
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