From a bigger house to better schools, when and whether to leave London is one of life’s great conundrums. Considering making the move? SL sat down with Prime Purchase buying agent, Emma Seaton, to get her top tips…
Why do most people move out of London?
The decision is mostly school-led. State schools outside of London often have smaller class sizes and more outside space. Prep schools are less competitive to get into, so you have more choice. More space is a big factor for everyone, too – whether that’s simply more room around to breathe, or a bigger house because you can get more for your money.
What’s the main thing to consider?
Local schools are an important factor, as ideally you don't want to spend more than 20 minutes in the car. If you or your partner are still working in the city, the commute to London is also significant – you don’t want it to be too onerous, particularly if you do it every day.
Where’s best to commute into London?
Two of the best places to commute from are Beaconsfield and Basingstoke, as trains take 30 minutes and 45 minutes, respectively, to get to Waterloo and run really frequently. People that work in Paddington tend to go for Newbury, Theale and Reading and for Marylebone it’s Beaconsfield and the new Oxford Parkway Station. If you go for the Cotswolds, you want to be within reach of Kemble station which takes you to Paddington. Keep in mind that it’s not just the journey, it's logistics too. Consider things like getting to the station, parking at the station, how big the car park is, will you get a space and the cost of all this.
Where can you get the most value for money?
Go out of the commuter belt if you can. If you don’t need to be in London five days a week then places like Salisbury, Wiltshire, Dorset and the Cotswolds will give you better value.
What’s your advice on schools?
Make sure your local school takes both juniors and seniors, so you’re not faced with long drives to a separate senior school in the future. Don’t assume your child will automatically get a place, outstanding state schools in the country are often difficult to get into. But as far as private schools are concerned, the waiting lists don’t tend to be as long as their London equivalents. As buying agents, we often suggest you put your child’s name down for three schools. This then gives us a rough triangle-shaped area upon which we can base the property search. When it comes to finding the right house, it helps if you're not tied to one particular area.
How do you find the good houses?
To find the good houses, you really need a buying agent. It's said that 60% of houses costing more than £2 million never reach the open market so most people wouldn’t even get to see them, unless they have a buying agent who has access to off-market properties. Contrary to popular belief, buying agents are not just for the wealthy, time-poor buyers. We have a real breadth of clients, from a single lady looking to downsize to a coastal flat, to a family with three children looking for an excellent commute and great village schools.
What does it cost?
Most buying agents charge a registration fee and then a percentage of the purchase price once they have successfully bought a property for a client. It varies from agent to agent, but it’s generally between 2% and 3%.
Anything else to consider?
Talk to buying agents very early on in your search because the earlier you start the research process the better. If you have children of school age you’ll most likely be looking to move during the summer holidays before term time. Keep in mind it takes a good year to find the right property and move.
What are your top five tips for moving out of London?
Do your research: Find out everything you need to know about the local area.
Making new friends matters: Invite mums at school back for a coffee, or if you have young children, going to a music class during the week is a great way to get to know other mums.
Test-out the commute: Make sure you do this before you commit to a property purchase.
Have lots of takeaways in London: You’ll miss them when you leave. There's no Uber Eats or Deliveroo in the country.
Consider extra costs: Many people are tempted by large properties or large gardens, particularly if they didn’t have much of a garden in London, but you need to understand the amount of upkeep that's involved – whether that’s maintenance costs or spending your valuable weekend time gardening.
Finally, you moved recently – tell us about it?
I traded in a three-bed house in southwest London for a five-bed detached house with an acre of garden in Micheldever. It has beautiful countryside and wonderful schools – both at primary and senior level. I’m missing my friends, but we’re making lots of new ones and my husband and children adore the space.
For more information on making a move to the country, visit Prime-Purchase.com