Whether you’re moving down from London or within Kent - there’s never been a better time to use a property finder. We asked one family to tell us the story of their move and how Fiona Penny Bespoke Home Finders made it all possible.
With it’s stunning countryside, good commuting options and outstanding schools aplenty – it’s no wonder Kent is such a sought-after pace to live. And since WFH continues to mean, for many, less days in the office – so young families are still flocking this way…
But competition for properties is high – this was certainly the case for Dougal Macdonald, who moved with his wife, Ondine, and their two small children. He enlisted the help of property guru Fiona Penny – who founded Fiona Penny Bespoke Home Finders 14 years ago. This is the story of the Macdonald family’s journey from city townhouse to rural dream home, in Dougal’s own words.
Q: So you’ve made the big move down from London to the Kent countryside. Can you tell us what was behind this decision?
A: We were living in Brixton for 7 years prior to the big move. Both working full time with a full-time nanny and had just had our second child. I was more keen than my wife to move out of London as I felt with two young children, our lifestyle had changed and we were no longer enjoying the benefits of city living yet certainly putting up with the downsides!
Covid and the subsequent lockdowns and working from home, has resulted in my wife only having to commute into work 3 days a week and this was certainly a big factor in her agreeing to a move out of London.
Q: And what brought you to Kent ?
A: A combination of family in Kent and in France, made for an easy decision. My wife’s parents are elderly and Iiving in France so we wanted easy and quick access to them as and when needed and my brother and his family live locally. Our nieces and nephews were already happily settled at St. Ronan’s School so that made for a very easy decision.
Q: How easy did you find the property market before coming across Fiona Penny and her team?
A: It was a complete nightmare! We had decided to rent but I wish we had known Fiona before we were exposed to the horrors of trying to find a rental ourselves. It was in the Autumn of 2020 so the world and his wife were trying to move out of London.
We did not know the area well enough and were relying on the letting agents, who were generally just rude! It was a very tough market. Then we searched on Google and really liked the look and feel of Fiona Penny’s website.
Q: How would you describe your experience of using FPBHF ?
A: In a word? ‘Aggregation’ (the formation of a number of things into a cluster!) is the word I would use. Fiona always listened and took on board what we were saying, our feedback from viewings and our priorities.
Every time we viewed a property it was an accumulation of the things we had liked about previous houses and then something additional that had been missing or Fiona knew was important to us.
‘Communication’ and ‘accessibility’ were also key. Fiona and her team were always available, always kept us informed and never left us hanging for an answer or response. You would like to expect this of all businesses but sadly it so often it is missing.
It was also enjoyable. Not something you can always say about house hunting or moving! The fact that we had complete trust in Fiona and her team plus realising how knowledgeable she was and her strong vein of contacts and networks locally meant we were really able to relax and, yes, it was actually fun!
Q:What was most useful about using this service and did it suck up the stress for you?
A: Well, we have the house we wanted – so it was definitely useful! Alongside finding us off-market properties, I think the fact that Fiona was an intermediary between ourselves and our vendors really helped to de-stress some situations that would certainly have been an issue without her.
Q: How long did it take ?
A: Our absolute dream home was the 5th or 6th house Fiona showed us and it took 5 months in total. We signed our contract with Fiona at the beginning of September 2020, we exchanged in November 2020 and completed and moved in January 2021.
Q: What do your wife and children say?You are all happy with the move then?
My wife is very happy with her three-day commute and our charming neighbours. The kids love the garden, the space, the flowers, their trampoline and the tree house – I have been busy building them.
We have embraced village life and have recommended both the move to the country and Fiona’s services to many others.