Even the loveliest London properties are usually short on outdoor space. Add in inflated prices, higher demands on the best schooling options and built-up skylines…it’s no wonder more people than ever are moving out of London to Kent.
This is what Catherine and Oliver Tinkler did, with their 2 sons (now 9 and 11 years old), when they moved from their house in Clapham to their new property in Goudhurst last year.
They swapped THIS…
A practically palatial pad in Goudhurst – yes that is in the catchment of one of Kent’s popular grammar schools, alongside brilliant state and independent options too. What’s more it’s still perfectly commutable and has loads of fun stuff going on for families in the immediate area. And the views! We asked Catherine to share her story…
Can you tell us about your time in London?
Oliver and I were both working in London when we met. We got married and both our sons were born there. We bought the last house in Clapham when I was pregnant with our eldest son.
What made you want to leave London?
We were very happy to raise the boys in London when they were younger – we loved having everything right on the doorstep and the ease of walking to places and not having to get into a car. However, after 10 years in Clapham and with children edging closer to secondary school age, we decided the time was right to make the big move out of town.
We were concerned about securing decent secondary school places for our sons. We also wanted to swap city pollution for the country air. With two growing boys, having a much larger garden and access to a lot more outside space was a big motivator!
What brought you to Kent?
My parents live in East Sussex, so I knew the area fairly well. Oliver and I have some very good friends already living in, and loving, Kent. We also knew this county to be good for easy and relatively quick commuting into London. Plus, it’s just beautiful around here!
How easy did you find the property search?
One of our good friends, who lives in Biddenden, suggested Fiona Penny Bespoke Home Finders, a home finding service. Fiona has 12 years experience in the property industry and offers a property finding concierge service, where experts act solely for the buyer throughout every aspect of the whole buying and renting process.
How easy was it?
It was a pretty bumpy road and I’m not convinced we would have managed it without Fiona and her team supporting us. In April 2017, we put our house in Clapham on the market, in order to move in the summer so the boys could start their new school that September. We offered on a house in Penshurst but did not get it and as the housing market was struggling in London, we were not getting any interest or offers on our Clapham house.
How did the home finders service help?
They helped us make the decision to rent a property in Goudhurst so that the boys could start school. This allowed us to make the leap to Kent. Fiona Penny found us a fully furnished rental. Our London house was still on the market and being viewed, so it was extremely helpful to keep our furniture in the Clapham property.
What was most useful about using this service?
The sale of our Clapham house actually fell through twice, due to broken chains, and ended up taking a full year (from April 2017 to April 2018) to complete! I don’t think the stress can be underestimated – it’s something a lot of people can relate to!
I truly think that it was only by having Fiona on our side, with her hands-on approach, all her local knowledge and contacts, and being physically ‘on the ground’ that we were able to make the move.
So basically you’ve got someone else sucking up most of the stress for you?
Yup. We even went on a 2 week summer holiday (that was already booked) because we knew Fiona was there for us organising everything on our behalf. We were eventually able to move into our rental property one week before the boys started the new school year.
Fiona then kept on house hunting on our behalf – but it wasn’t that frenetic search where time is running out. She even hand-delivered cards to houses that we liked the look of – it’s all part of the service of chasing every opportunity. We were able to let the boys settle into school and my husband, Oliver, and I to settle into Kent life.
How long after that did you find your dream home then?
It’s not an easy market out there at the moment and while house hunting, before using Fiona, we rarely saw any properties for sale that we were actually interested in. Or if we did they were snapped up so fast! We realised we really needed to see a house BEFORE it went live onto the market! Using her skills Fiona helped us secure such a property in Goudhurst that was being quietly marketed but was not on the open market.
Then came the actual negotiation, leading to an offer and the final exchange of contracts and completion. Here again, Fiona played a hugely important role in what turned out to be quite a lengthy and complicated negotiation. Also we were still new to the area – but Fiona, with her local knowledge, gave us help with the practical logistics of organising a huge amount of different trades people – roofers, surveyors, mortgage advisors, insurance brokers, electricians, wood worm specialists – you name it!
How smooth did you find the process compared to other house moves?
Let’s be honest, most house moves are stressful! But I would say that Fiona was on hand with very good advice and helped to keep all the parties calm and informed especially when tensions were running higher near to exchange and completion. Without that it would have been so much harder and quite possibly fallen through.
In the end we moved into our new home in Goudhurst at the beginning of December 2018. We were given a ‘Welcome Pack’ from Fiona, that contained a huge amount of useful information about the local area, including things to do, shops, restaurants and useful trades people. It even had the days of the bin collections!
What does your husband say?
Apart from the longer commute, my husband, Oliver, is equally delighted with the move and even he admits that getting a seat on a train is infinitely better than being squashed into various tube trains and stations! We have accepted that there are some things, such as getting an Uber or Deliveroo, that you just don’t get in the country but that the positives far, far outweigh any negatives.
And your kids?
The boys settled in really quickly and are happy at their new school. They love the space and freedom that a large country garden (with swimming pool!) gives them, to play football and trampoline and they have both started sailing at Bewl Water, which is only 15 mins away. And Bedgebury Pinetum, for all its walks and cycling, is also right on our doorstep.
So it’s safe to say you’re happy with the move?
Having lived in our own home in the countryside for six months now, we could not be happier. The house and the area has surpassed all our hopes and expectations. We love the house, the village and the whole area. I’d describe the home finders service as like ‘having the safety net that makes you jump’.