More people are moving out of London and heading north in search of affordability and quality of life. Sharon Dale reports.
“When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life,” said Samuel Johnson in 1777. If he were to update that observation, he might add “tired of sky-high house prices and rents that are out of reach for the average worker.”
This lack of affordability is just one of the reasons why more London dwellers are packing their bags and leaving the capital.
The number of Londoners who bought homes outside the city rose to 30,280 in the first half of 2018, which is a 16 per cent rise on the same period last year.
The new figures published by Hamptons International also show that compared to 10 years ago there was a 61 per rise in people leaving the capital to buy homes elsewhere.
Most London leavers stay in the south of England. Two out of five move to the south east, although this is down three per cent on last year as affordability tightens.
However, as more people are priced out of the south, the proportion of Londoners leaving for northern England or the Midlands has more than tripled since 2008. In the first half of this year, one in five London leavers moved to the north or Midlands – up from just six per cent a decade ago.
Many Londoners leave to buy a bigger property and spent an average £424,610 on their new home, which is 1.6 times more than a buyer from elsewhere.
More than one in ten, 12 per cent, of first-time buyers leaving the capital to move to the north or Midlands, four times the proportion in 2010. The numbers moving to Yorkshire are increasing. There was a two per cent rise between the first half of 2017 and the same period this year.
In the last 18 months, a quarter of homes for sale over £750,000 with Blenkin and Co. have been sold to Londoners relocating to York and the surrounding area.
Edward Hartshorne, head of Blenkin and Co., says: “It’s mainly people in the 35 to 50 age group as they are the people who have benefited most from the astronomical rises in London property values over the last 10 years. Generally, they are professionals and in particular, accountants and lawyers.”
He believes that property prices and a better lifestyle are the main drivers. Other big attractions are York railway station, which offers journey times to London in just under two hours.
“Another reason to move here is the schools. Most parents in London are lucky if they get into their third choice of school,” says Edward Hartshorne, who adds: “Yorkshire offers a much better way of life. You have the coast, the moors and the Dales plus there is great variation in the property stock too.”
David and Anita Campbell sold their Camden flat to buy a house in York when they needed more space for their children. They couldn’t afford to trade up in the capital and were concerned about the quality of the schools there.
They have no regrets. David says: “Anita had lived all her life in London and I had lived there for 25 years but we felt York offered many of the benefits of city living yet had easy access to the countryside. The rail link to London was also a pull. The only thing we miss is the more cutting edge creative arts and the ethnic mix of London and the variety of foods and culture that inevitably come with this.”
Harrogate is also a hotspot for London relocators after shedding its blue rinse image to become a fashionable and more cosmopolitan town,
James Spencer, of Carter Jonas Harrogate, says: “Most people who move here from London are in their 30s and 40s and want a lifestyle change with better schools for their children.
“They can get something three times the size here. Most people have some kind of Yorkshire connection or move with someone who has and most don’t regret leaving London for Harrogate. It’s a good trade-off. The only thing they might miss is the theatres.”
Leeds and Sheffield are a target for younger buyers. Lizzie Baker, of Spencers estate agents in Sheffield, says: “We get a lot of people from London buying here and they are always surprised at how much they can get for their money.
“Most of them have grown up here or they were students here so they know the city and love it. We get a lot of first-time buyers and young families who want a better quality of life. They like the friendly feel of the city and its close proximity to the Peak District.”
Older buyers regularly make a beeline for Hebden Bridge and the surrounding area. They are lured by its independent spirit, rail links and countryside.
Estate agent Isobel Smith, of Charnock Bates, says: “We get very few young people or families, buyers tend to be between 40 and 60 years old.”
However, the rugged countryside that inspired some of Ted Hughes most powerful poetry can prove too much for some.
Isobel says: “People from London who have never lived here can find it too rural. If you try and take them down a track to view a property. They can’t cope.”
*Caz Gillam on why she left London for Yorkshire:
Why did you decide to leave London?
After living in SW London for nine years, my husband and I found ourselves battling with the decision around whether we move to the suburbs or make a complete life style change and move to Yorkshire where we both grew up. We ended up leaving London in June 2015 and I was extremely fortunate that my employer, EY, is committed to flexible working and investing heavily in the regions so I was able to transfer my role up here.
Why did you decide to buy in Yorkshire?
The primary reason to settle in Yorkshire was due to family based up here. However Yorkshire has so much to offer; in close proximity we have the stunning East coastline, Yorkshire Dales, vibrant and growing cities which means we are completely spoilt for choice on the weekend. I still manage to enjoy the London ‘buzz’ and travel down weekly for 1-2 days for work; York to London is less than 2 hours on a train and the commute could almost be described as enjoyable
Do you have any regrets about the decision?
Absolutely none We have a young toddler and seeing her grow up (with our family dog) in such idyllic surroundings makes us realise every day we have made the right decision.
What are the pros and cons?
When I first moved here I thought being in the regions would be career limiting but that is a complete myth and I have exactly the same opportunities to progress in the regions as I did working in London for my employer. I realise I may be very lucky in that department but more firms are moving to the flexible working mind-set. The overall plus of living where we do is that we have a ‘home’ and feel we have laid foundations for family life. The downside is that Yorkshire is an exceptionally big county and getting from one side to another can be as long as getting to another county. I must confess I do miss the endless black cabs and the ability to eat and drink around the clock in the city but I’m probably too tired for that anyway now.