Time and again on our forums and facebook group we see people asking others where they should move. It's quite something I think, and a testament to our members that people genuinely feel confident to ask near strangers where might suit them. It's so inspiring seeing the ideas that come back but the truth is no one else can tell you exactly where you should go. As a starting point, however, we know that asking others is a great process. However, you can't rely on that without doing a lot of work yourself. For starters you need to ask yourselves some pretty fundamental questions before you hurtle down the road of property portals and start dreaming of a world outside London.
Here are a few to get you going....
- Where do you work?
Do you need to commute to London? How many days a week? There is a big difference between doing that trip 5 days a week or 3 days a week working from home. If you're 5 days a week, work out how long you can really manage - most people say 1 hour 30 minutes is really as much as they want door to door. Aim to live within 15 minutes of the station if you can, and aim to travel into the mainline station nearest your work so you have an easy transfer without too many tube/bus changes. Lots of people choose to walk from the London station to get in a bit of exercise in their day.
- Where do your family live?
Don't discount your extended family. You may not wish to move where they are based but it is worth considering their geographical location so you can at least head in the right direction. It's really hard to live in Kent if all your relatives are north of York. You don't need to go North but at least consider limited your location to areas North of a boundary you can set - don't make it harder on yourself is the key message here.
- What do you like doing outside of the office?
If you're already a family who love the seaside then it's a great idea to plan within an hour of the seaside (or closer if you can) as a guide. You don't need to live overlooking the sea, if that doesn't suit, but being able to easily get to the beach is a sensible plan. The same can be said for those who love the mountains, or biking or walking. Look at the areas to check you have easy access to doing the things you love - the whole point of the move is to find yourselves a great life so make sure you factor in your leisure time.
- Where are the children going to school? We appreciate you can't choose the school before you choose the area (or at least most people don't) but a few bits of advice we can give - firstly write down their year group number when you are planning to move. It's easy to get yourself in a muddle. Some areas are Primary and Secondary Schools (Reception to year 6, year 7 to the end), others are infant and junior (reception to year 2, year 3 to year 6, then secondary). Grammar Schools have different entry criteria and you'll need to get a note of the dates in your diary early on. Independent schools have some preparatory schools from year 3 or 4 to year 8. Make sure you've got it worked out in principle and keep an eye on Secondary options at all times. Good secondary schools usually have decent primary schools in the area, the reverse isn't always true.
5. What can you afford?
Budgeting your move is critically important. You need to do the calculations of the move itself (stamp duty, conveyancers fees, removal fees) but also calculate running costs remembering to include commuting costs (will you need an additional car? what's the parking monthly cost, how much is a season ticket) and look at your council tax to be clear if you are currently in a low area (Westminster, Wandsworth, and Hammersmith) so it doesn't come as such a shock. Remember heating bills are likely to go up if you're moving from a terraced house to a detached property and you might want to consider what others costs will change. It isn't true that life is always cheaper outside London.
6. Where can we afford?
The property portals have turned us all into property experts! Now I'm giving you a good excuse to do some surfing - check out a few of the places recommended by others and do a quick check on what's around and on the market. Speak to the estate agents about what you're looking for and work out if you're ever likely to find your future home in that area. There is little point in pinpointing the perfect village if the houses rarely come up for sale and when they do there is an extra zero on the price tag putting it out of your limit. Lots of areas are popular because they suit commuters and have great schools but also because they've become fashionable. You don't need to follow the crowd - there are other places that might suit you that aren't as expensive - living in some counties has a higher price tag because of the name. If that matters to you then it's worth it, but if it doesn't, consider alternative options that still fit your other criteria.