‘Why we sold our north London house to rent near Woking — for more than our mortgage’
Homes close to high performing schools in London come at a hefty premium.
According to one recent study by property portal Zoopla, parents who want to be close to an Ofsted-outstanding school need to pay more than £200,000 extra for a home within its catchment area.
With three young children to consider, Emma and Phil Coldrey had begun to get increasingly concerned about their options in the run-up to the pandemic.
The couple had a four bedroom 1930s semi in Bush Hill Park, north London, and loved the neighbourhood. But the local senior schools had bad reputations and they wanted better for their three children, now aged nine, seven, and four.
“We couldn’t afford to move into the catchment area for one of the very good schools nearby,” said Emma. “It was a worry. We were very set up in Bush Hill Park — we had lots of friends — but we just couldn’t find anything to buy nearby within budget.”
As well as good schools Emma, 44, a news director at the BBC, and Phil, 42, a cameraman, need to live within reasonable commuting distance of London. So they began mapping their options for locations with both good schools and fast, regular train links back into town.
At this stage the plan was very much a desktop study, but the pandemic provided a final push. “To be honest I didn’t think we’d ever really leave,” said Emma. “But after lockdown we thought: “We’ve managed without seeing our friends for this long, we can manage without them if we move”,” said Emma.
They decided their perfect location was Horsell, a village a mile from the centre of Woking. It has plentiful open space in the form of the 900 acre Horsell Common, and its own high street with pubs, restaurants, and shops. And the schools are great. “We actually use the car less here than we used to in London because everything is within walking distance,” said Emma.
The move was a logistical minefield. The couple sold their house, for £650,000, in November 2021, before they’d found a place to buy.
With school places waiting for the older children they decided to rent, only to find that they needed to bid over the asking price (and sign a two year contract) to secure a temporary home in Horsell. The small, three-bedroom house they found cost £1,850pcm, which was more than their mortgage.
Meanwhile, with the pandemic in full swing, prices continued rising around them. Eventually, in July 2022, they had to considerably up the size of their mortgage to buy their new home, a detached, four-bedroom 1930s house.
Luckily for them their landlord agreed to free them from their contract early so they didn’t end up paying rent and a mortgage simultaneously.
Beyond those early teething troubles the move has worked out perfectly. The children are happily settled at their respective school and nursery and Emma and Phil are making school-gates friendships.
They are all loving the outdoor space they now have on the doorstep and the commute — whilst slightly slower and more expensive than when they were in London — is entirely do-able.
“Everyone has settled in much better than we expected — we are just absolutely delighted,” said Emma. “Is there anything I would have done differently? I would probably have done it a bit sooner, but that is it.”