Where to live if you plan on leaving London

It’s one of London's most popular conversations: should you leave to cash in equity, downsize, or have a better quality of life? Joy Persaud picks five of the best places to move to

Contrary to the saying, you don’t have to be tired of life to leave London behind. You might fancy cashing in, at a time when your bricks and mortar generate more money in a year than you do.

This month, London property prices rose almost 26 per cent in the three months to the end of June, compared with last year; the UK’s sharpest rise in house prices, according to Nationwide. The average London house now costs £400,404.

Downsizing to release money to pay off the mortgage, or have a more manageable home, might be attractive to you.

Or you might want the money to spend on your pension, holidays, a car or, perhaps somewhat ironically, to help your children on to the property ladder.

What to consider when leaving London

Moving away will generally enable you to have a larger – or more beautiful – home and garden for the same outlay. But sought-after areas that are accessible to London are expensive, with places such as Cambridge, Winchester and Guildford offering few bargains.

Cambridge is fourth on the list of highest rising prices after Manchester, London and Brighton. The latter, dubbed London-on-Sea for its culture, cuisine and arts, is experiencing its highest price rises in a decade.

Those who need to still reach London to visit friends and family, for work or to enjoy its charms, should factor in travel costs.

And, when the weather is bad, be warned that there may be no way to, or from, London. It’s not unheard of for the stranded to have to scrabble to find a B&B with no notice.

Ignore estate agents who promise fast journeys. Do dry runs, door-to-door – preferably on a miserable, wet day. Transport Direct’s planner is handy.

Similarly, the Commuter Guide gives a breakdown of stations by county, plus journey information.    

Moving further away from London

If, however, you aren’t bothered about access to The Big Smoke, there’s a wealth of options. Buying cannily in farther-flung areas could give you a fantastic home with bedrooms for visitors (or for adult children who can’t afford to leave), plus easy money and the prospect of more, in time.

Here are High50’s five best places to buy when cashing in on the capital:

Relocation to Birmingham

Forget your prejudices. Birmingham, the number one destination for 250,000 people who left London in 2012, is replete with elegant canals (more than Venice) and loft apartments. It has Birmingham Royal Ballet, Selfridges and a Symphony Orchestra.

While it is currently tricky to get to and from London from here – which may or may not be a priority – this will change when the HS2 high-speed rail link is complete.

As well as the boost that the link will bring, Brum’s Eastside area is benefiting from a £6-8 billion investment and the council has plans for the regeneration of the canal at Icknield Port Loop, including moorings, 1,150 new homes, shops, park and playground and a ten-storey hotel.

Edgbaston and Harborne are among Birmingham’s most desirable areas.

Relocation to Brighton and Hove

‘London-on-Sea’ isn’t cheap, but there aren’t many places that possess the vibrancy and diversity of a city, rolling countryside nearby, striking period buildings and the sea. Brighton & Hove, which became a city in 2000, offers as much stimulation, or as little, as you fancy.

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Brighton combines the social life of a city with sea air, period buildings and the serene beauty of the South Downs

Its allure, and its links to London make it popular, especially the best-kept areas within walking distance to the station and city centre, such as Montpelier and Hove Park. This is a place that will give you a sense of home-from-home city life with fast links to London Bridge and Victoria, and you’ll get more for your money – if you’re quick. The city was the second most popular destination for Londoners leaving in 2012, with foreign investors now snapping up property.  

Relocation to Cambridge

This university town is cited as being the place at the heart of the economic recovery. It’s also known as Silicon Fen due to the prevalence of software and scientific companies and the techies that work there, and it’s a destination of brains and beauty.

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Cambridge is both an elegant architectural oasis and the centre of the ‘Silicon Fen’ tech hub

Houses cost nine per cent more than they did a year ago, and Newnham, in the west of the city, was this year voted by The Sunday Times as the second best place to live in Britain. It was lauded for its ‘country living in the heart of Cambridge’ and its village atmosphere – yet with a John Lewis store a walkable distance away across picturesque fens. 

Relocation to Skipton

This Yorkshire market town, known as the Gateway to The Dales, has picked up accolades including Britain’s best place to live (the Sunday Times) and, a few years ago, ‘greatest street on the land’ for its high street (Academy of Urbanism).

Two years ago, Skipton was voted the best place to retire to, according to research by The Guardian and Experian. They examined 40 measures of quality of life, as rated by people whose children have left home, focusing on air quality, crime rate, population density, burglary rates, neighbourliness, good health and life expectancy.

Skipton has a medieval castle, ancient woodland, quaint streets and a canal that flows under the castle ramparts. Its location, with unspoilt countryside stretching for miles, plus links to Leeds, York and Sheffield, makes it understandably enticing.  

Relocation to Whitstable

The beach at Whitstable is the first you reach when heading east from London. It was listed as one of the coolest places in the UK to live last year due to its myriad independent businesses, creative residents, galleries, seafood restaurants, period buildings and quirkiness.

These businesses have added around £40,000 to house prices over the past decade, according to research by American Express last November. Similar places benefiting from this effect are Marlborough in Wiltshire, Hungerford in Berkshire, Totnes in Devon and Yarm in North Yorkshire.

If you read articles on Whitstable written around a decade ago, you’ll get a sense of the place when Londoners first began to uproot there, making prices rise (and hackles, it would seem). But recent anecdotal opinion suggests it is a place in demand, with enviable features.

Have you moved out of London? Where to, and was it all you hoped? Share your comments below

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