Living in London has many advantages when it comes to raising a family; local amenities within walking distance, an abundance of other young families on your doorstep, a variety of events and activities a short journey away and in addition, it’s often just a quick commute into town for either, or both, parents who are working.
However, Covid-19 and the constant threat of ‘lockdown' have made us all slightly dread being cooped up in our London homes - the draw of the countryside becoming ever more appealing. Of those who were thinking about making the move in the future, many are now considering bringing this forward in the light of the current situation. Working from home – certainly for part of the week – is likely to become more of a permanent reality and this makes a 3-day-a-week commute from the country seem feasible for many people.
The commute into London is a huge consideration when deciding where to move to and Kent has excellent transport links to the City with trains going directly into London Bridge, Waterloo East, Charing Cross and Cannon Street. The high-speed train from Ashford into St Pancreas takes only 36 minutes. The traditional commuting areas follow the Sevenoaks to Ashford train line with the many villages within 5 miles of a station on this route still being very popular.
House buyers’ requirements have changed over the past few months and a few areas such as The Romney Marsh (Rye and Camber Sands) and Deal (East Kent), might have previously not been considered for a 5-day a week commute but would be very doable for only 2 or 3 days a week. Similarly, previously ignored villages, due to their distance from a commutable station, can now work if travelling into town is going to be less frequent.
Kent doesn’t have a fast A3 or M4 directly into London but the M20 opens the area up to other parts of the UK and, with Eurostar only a short distance away, you can be in France in a couple of hours!
The financial pressures of private school fees in London are often a large factor for families deciding to move to the Country. It is important, in these economically uncertain times, to have the choice to leave private education and move to an area with excellent state schools. Kent boasts some of the best schools in the country, both private and state such as Benenden School, Tonbridge School and Cranbrook School as well as many other highly ranked Grammar Schools and other well-regarded private schools.
House prices are another thing to consider and the Kent area is generally thought to be very good value when compared to other home counties. Based on property currently on the market, for the price of a 4-bed terraced house in West Dulwich (approx. 1,734sq ft), it would be possible to purchase a 5-bed detached house in Benenden (approx. 3,700 sq ft) with an acre of garden, a triple bay garage and a 4-acre paddock – all within the Cranbrook School catchment area.
Kent is well known for its scenic countryside and stunning coastal towns. Amidst the many miles of coastline are the familiar seaside destinations of Whitstable, Margate, Broadstairs, Herne Bay and the Isle of Sheppey – making the area particularly popular for homeowners as well as holiday-makers. Inland, well-known towns, cities and lesser-known smaller villages, are all surrounded by beautiful Kent countryside. With the County having earned the famous nickname ‘Garden of England’, Kent is thought by many to be the perfect place to bring up a family.
When asked why they moved to the area, families told us, “We have always loved Tunbridge Wells because of its ease of access to London and its beautiful town and surroundings. We felt there were many areas where we would be happy to live and where we could enjoy the countryside. My husband has taken up cycling since moving down here and I now have an abundance of different dog walks to choose from daily. We love it!” Another said, “Kent has great free Grammar schools, it’s an easy commute and we were able to buy a house with loads of space for four children”.
So, if Kent is a tempting proposition, where do you start? A good Search Agent will know the patch thoroughly, have connections within local agents, understand the schooling system in each area and be familiar with the market. Local knowledge and help from someone with property experience can be invaluable. When considering the state school options, it is worth noting that there is always a tight catchment area and dealing with someone who knows the boundaries is crucial when looking to purchase a property close to a chosen school.
Helen Turner is the Founder of Property Turner, a professional property search agency offering impartial advice to clients looking to rent or purchase property in Kent. They are experienced home-finders with a wealth of in-depth knowledge and an excellent network of local contacts.