Real Story of Leaving London—The House Hunt

Sometimes finding the right house is not an easy proposition. Jo kindly shares her story of the trials and tribulations of the house hunt. 

London life

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.

Flexi working

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.

Goodbye 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.
East Midlands
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  1. Interesting article but would have liked more information. what were their occupations? How did they manage to pay a mortgage off in only 10 years? Which green corner did they move from?

    • Hi Jackie,

      I worked mainly for media agencies doing marketing effectiveness modelling and analysis. My husband worked in investment banking and private equity as a project manager. Both lucrative, but 12-14 hour days, weekends and frequent international travel took their toll on our health and, at times, our relationship.

      We bought in SE7, ex LA house but within walking distance of Blackheath, Greenwich Park, Woolwich Common, Oxleas Wood and the Thames Barrier/Riverside walk. Purchase was pre-banking crisis in 2008; fully flex tracker that we were able to take advantage of when interest rates tumbled and stayed low. Proceeds from sale of our two flats paid off lump sums, then anything else we had spare was thrown at the mortgage.

      HTH clarify, Jo

  2. Lovely story, we also have no children and like to know where in East Midlands they moved to.

    • Hi,

      We considered Grantham, plus the surrounding villages of Barrowby, Great Gonerby and Gonerby Hill Foot.

      We also visited Newark, including the surrounding villages of Farndon, Collingham, Coddington and Balderton.

      We felt Newark town had more about it than Grantham, but the two are close enough to each other to get the best of both.

      Newark is steeped in history, with pubs and restaurants aplenty. There’s loads going on and it’s bustling but still a local vibe.

      We can walk/cycle to surrounding villages and get back to London by train in 75 mins, Peterborough & Nottingham in 30 mins.


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