Finding your new UK home

The process of looking for a house, I am embarrassed to admit, began about three and a half years ago. My husband and I  started browsing property sites looking at what we could get with the money we thought we would have.  It became a hobby, what we did in the evenings. We began to call it ‘property porn’ because it felt somehow a bit dirty, a bit wrong because it had no purpose, it was pure imagination, speculation, a waste of valuable time, and why weren’t we enjoying each other’s company or even the place we were actually living in. Lying on the bed with your husband staring at is not the most romantic way to spend an evening but it was sometimes quite fun!

We would have ‘a quickie’ most nights, and this would end up being for an hour, sometimes more.  My husband always justified it that we needed to understand the market and what we both wanted. But it wasn’t necessary until we knew we were moving, and then we were looking every day without fail. It would often be a look after one of our series had ended, a calm-down after an exciting ‘Game of Thrones’ or ‘House of Cards’ episode.

We would look at what we could get all over the country: fantastic stone mansions in Stroud (how I loved these), leafy houses in Hazelmere, farms in Suffolk.  My husband would always go for a town period house, a grand Georgian with high ceilings, I would always go for a period property in the countryside, surrounded by green rolling hills and beautiful flowerbeds! We did learn about what styles we liked.

When it came to the possibility of really moving, an actual opportunity of a transfer I jumped at it. And the search began in earnest. I quickly had to forget about the beautiful houses in Stroud with the forever views, it was back to holding the leash with the collar firmly around London’s mighty pulsating neck.

Our criteria:

  1. The commute from work, door to potential door. We had become used to my husband’s commute being twenty-five minutes, but now we would be looking at an hour’s commute in the hope that he would still see the children before they went to sleep. We looked at commutes out of London on websites and looked at villages surrounding these main towns.
  2. I wanted to be within an hour to two hours’ drive of my family.
  3. Good schools. This is a huge decision. Would we be able to afford the independent sector or go with the state? We began this process 18 months in advance of the new school year they’d be starting in and wondered whether this was already too late.
  4. After living in nature for so long it was important to me to have access to beautiful countryside
  5. My husband wanted to be able to go shopping to a reasonable sized town easily, preferably with a toy shop and cinema.

When I think though of just how long we have been looking at Rightmove when we found the area we were looking at, the school our children would go to, it was every day, every night, sometimes twice a day, instant phone calls ‘Have you seen the property in … for …?’, I can easily see it mounting to five hundred hours over the last three years.

My husband always looked at the square footage and I at distance to the school and garden, priorities were quickly established. I drew up a table with these priorities and the houses we had shortlisted.  We arranged a trip to the UK for a fortnight in March and viewed them all. My Mum looked after the children (don’t go with them!) and we stayed in a beautiful hotel (treat it as a naughty weekend away). After an interesting three days exploring houses and areas, we found a house we both liked. It wasn’t a period property but it had a beautiful garden, a view of fields, and was very light.  It was just over an hour to my husband’s work door to door and a ten minute journey (by car) to school.

It’s never easy to buy a house but we were very fortunate to sell our London house at the right time in order to buy this one, lucky to get a mortgage in time (it was surprisingly difficult) and for it all to go through. My husband will disagree and say it was stressful and there were times when we thought it would all collapse, but on the whole the process was fairly smooth.

We are now happily living in this house.

Maybe all that property porn was worth it?

Key Points for the Search for the Perfect House:

a)      When looking at the possibilities of moving, work out how much time you want to give to browsing. Think about what your objectives are to prevent it spiralling into every night.

b)      Work out your top five big picture priorities as a family as to what area you want to move to (commute, school, family etc).

c)      If you are looking at independent schools, ring up schools immediately and find out about places for your children in the relevant cohort.

d)      Establish the geographical area/areas you are looking at, print a map out so you get to know the roads and towns/villages around – you will be looking at it a lot.

e)      Work our your top five house priorities. Start looking at houses. Identify your favourites, look every day to get to know the market. Try and establish a relationship with estate agents so they know what you want and can let you know immediately if something new comes on.

f)       Arrange your trip back to the U.K with your schedule for house viewings.


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