Covid-19 accelerating the trend to flee to the Home Counties
Which level is yours?
Forty five years ago financial journalist Hugh Thompson and milliner Vivien Knowland moved into their starter terraced home in East Putney. Five years later with a coming family they moved up to a semi-detached house in Dryburgh Road. Fourteen years ago, the family grown up, they downsized to Festing Road, exchanging with a professional couple and their three small girls. That was then.
This classic Putney up and down escalator seems to be changing. In the last five years five young professional families have with their children and their careers growing moved from their smart terraces in Festing Road, not to bigger houses in Putney, but much bigger houses in Guildford, Hampshire and Oxfordshire. The families headed by lawyers, public relations executives, fund managers, bankers and film directors all made the move or at least the decision before the Covid crisis increased the move to home working.
As one who moved recently said,” We moved because we had both grown up outside of London (for me only for a few years) and wanted our girls to have similar childhoods - hopefully they stay younger for longer! We are also in the foolish position of not having been willing to pretend to be religious in exchange for a decent education so were always going to be paying school fees, and where we’ve moved to there is considerably less anxiety about school places etc. than was the case in Putney.
“We could not have been more fortunate with our timing in moving out, swapping our back garden for a couple of acres and a bigger house. I have a separate shed to work in, and am in effect removed entirely from the house. My business has recently announced entirely flexible working arrangements, so I am aiming at going into work for 3 days a week when we return to the office.
“So my summary would be that we moved because we always thought that we would and have framed it as being about the children, and we’ve been insanely lucky with our timing. I haven’t had to commute yet but know it’s not great, but I moved expecting to commute 5 days a week and am likely to be on the train 3 days or so.”
Others point out that the £1.8m Putney terrace exchanged in the Home Counties buys an awful lot of bedrooms and garden, a less hectic life style, less competitive education scene. It maybe by signalling less time in the office they are making a statement about competing for the very top jobs.
There is of course the major hurdle of the next step up the property ladder being £2.5m or more in Putney. Others point to moving to be nearer parents and in laws for baby sitting and other family reasons. All point to a fast train service which they claim makes the commute not much more than from Putney to the City and how the move to home working makes their move so smart.
Robert Pemberton of Winkworth Putney says,”Covid has made many sit up and re-assess their lifestyle. It is likely working from home for at least part of the week will become a permanent feature. This opens up the possibility of a lifestyle change. Country agents have been inundated with enquiries from London buyers. The question is will this continue ? Offices are opening up and as staff drift back to work will the allure of the country trump the stain of the commute, all be it for only three or four days a week - only time will tell.
“In the meantime London residents, who could probably have upscaled some time ago, are biting the bullet and paying the outrageous stamp duty to upscale and move to larger houses in their neighbourhood. Gardens have become a priority.”
September 4, 2020