More people are leaving London and prices in the capital are rising slower than elsewhere in the UK. Does London life still have something to offer? Christina Neal weighs up the pros and cons of living in the big smoke.
London has seen the slowest rise in property prices over the past year and has become a victim of the pandemic, with prices in Greater London rising by just 1.3 per cent in a year compared to the national average of 7.1 per cent, according to Halifax.
Despite the easing of lockdown in the summer, some people living in London are still reconsidering where they want to live and, in some cases, leaving the city entirely.
Estate agent Hamptons reveals that over 61,000 Londoners bought a property outside the city in the first half of this year, the highest number since records began. Flexible working and the cost of buying in the capital are thought to be responsible for the increase in London leavers. The estate agent has also revealed that property buyers from London made up 8.6 per cent of property sales outside the capital in the first half of this year – up from 6.6 per cent in 2020.
Professional services firm PwC’s Economic Outlook Report, published at the start of this year, claimed that the population in the UK’s capital could fall in 2021 for the first time in over 30 years. Some 69 per cent of Londoners moved to the South of England last year, 15 per cent relocated to the Midlands and 13 per cent moved up North. The average age of those quitting London fell to 39 – a record low.
Good commuter locations
Surrey, Hertfordshire, and Kent are popular locations for those seeking to move out of London. Surrey is popular for its scenic towns and villages and is still a good place to commute from. Popular Surrey locations for those leaving London include Oxted, Godstone and Lingfield.
Aneisha Beveridge from Hamptons says: ‘Pandemic-fuelled city outmigration shows no signs of slowing. Hamptons has predicted that, if this trend continues, Londoners would have bought 108,000 homes outside of the capital. ‘
While it’s understandable that many people are tempted to leave the city for a calmer life, and preferably a cheaper property with more space, it’s important not to rush your decision. We’ve learned from the pandemic that none of us knows what the future holds. Buying a property is likely to be one of the biggest decisions you’ll ever make, so don’t rush it.
If you live in London and are thinking of moving further out, make sure your work situation will remain secure when you move. If you’re planning to work from home, you need to know that your current employer will remain in favour of remote working in the long term. Otherwise, you could be in for a long and expensive commute.
So, should you stay in London, or should you move on? Of course, there are pros and cons in every situation. Here’s some good reasons to stay in London and some reasons to consider leaving:
Stay in London because…
Great access to many restaurants
You won’t find any shortage of places to eat, and you can try all types of dining from every conceivable culture. There’s plenty of bars too. In 2018, the Office for National Statistics estimated there were 3600 bars and pubs in the capital.
Travel is easy
If you want to go abroad now that the world has opened up again, London offers easy access to several key airports, including Heathrow – you can get there on the Piccadilly Line. There’s also Gatwick. The Gatwick Express train runs every 15 minutes from Victoria station and takes about 20 minutes. East of the river, there’s also London City Airport which you can reach on the Docklands Light Railway (DLR).
Work hard/play hard
If you’re ambitious and you also enjoy living life to the full, London is the place to be. Many companies combine a busy work schedule with activities outside of the office, usually involving socialising in bars. If that’s your thing, you’ll have a great time.
Build your career
There’s a reason why people commute – the job opportunities in London are second to none and the pay tends to be much better than in other areas. According to the website, Totaljobs, pay in London is the highest in the country.
Leave London because…
You’ll get more for your money
The amount you can save on the purchase of a property and indeed rent can be significant as London is still far more expensive than other areas of the UK – a typical property in the capital costs over £508,000 according to Halifax. Even if you’re not living in London, but you’re on the outskirts, moving even further out could present a significant saving. Four years ago, I moved from Cheam in Surrey to Colchester in Essex, purchasing a three-bedroom end-of-terrace house with a basement and a large garden for £284,000. A two-bedroom apartment in Cheam would have cost more than that. Colchester is very commutable – a train into Liverpool Street takes just 50 minutes.
People are more chilled outside the capital
Everyone in London is usually in a hurry and people don’t take kindly to anyone who goes about their business at a leisurely pace. Anyone who slows someone down on a tube escalator will be on the receiving end of dirty looks or a few judgemental tuts. You might be used to this and you might even be one of the tutters, but if it’s beginning to stress you out, a more relaxed location might be more appealing for you.
Your priorities have changed
Depending on what stage you’re at in your life, you may want to live in an area that’s more relaxed and affordable and redefine your lifestyle. You may earn more money in London but it’s easy to spend more when you’re there (those London-priced lattes all add up) than if you’re working locally or working at home. You may have concluded it’s OK to earn less if you’re spending less and want to have a job where the hours are more flexible, or the emphasis isn’t on earning as much as you can.
You want to spend more time at home
People usually move to London in their 20s and move out when they reach their 30s or 40s when they want to spend more time at home with their kids. Think about your current lifestyle and what type of location would best suit you at this stage of your life.