The trend of more home-hunters looking to escape to the country or coast is continuing, with home-buying interest in rural areas skyrocketing. Many city folk are re-evaluating their lifestyle and the draw of the countryside is fuelling a surge in demand towards rural properties. Once you have agreed on a general area, these are our tips on deciding on the type of place you want to live in.
Know what you’re buying into
My husband and I are both from small villages and are very aware of the idiosyncrasies of life in a small environment. We chose our area due to proximity to my husband’s family, but before we even considered buying a property, we rented in a local market town and our research began. Now this may seem extreme, but village dynamics can mean a harmonious or challenging existence. Moving can be an expensive and emotional undertaking and if this is to be your forever home – forewarned is forearmed.
Market town, village, hamlet or single dwelling – what’s right for your family?
‘The best thing about living in a small village, is that when you don’t know what’s going on in your life, someone in the village usually does.’ Anon
Finding the perfect house is one thing but the size of the place where it is located is perhaps even more important. You may adore total isolation in the Scottish Highlands for a week away, but are you really prepared to make that your permanent move? A market town, village, hamlet or single dwelling are all options and you have to carefully consider the pros and cons of each.
Broadband and mobile signal
For many families, living and especially working from home is sometimes only as good as your broadband and mobile connection. Poor or intermittent broadband connection can be frustrating for parents and young people alike, and although much investment has been made in increasing broadband speeds across rural areas it is worth checking out the local offer. The same goes for your mobile network, the main providers all have helpful interactive maps so you can see the strength of the signal on offer. But remember, if your grade II listed house has walls 3 feet thick, you may have additional challenges.
Everyone has a different threshold for what they need within walking distance of their house. Some are happy with a pub, whilst others may not be able to function without their daily oat flat white (is that a thing?).
A village shop is often the limit for people moving from an urban area, as milk or a newspaper within walking distance is something many could not see living without. In recent years, many shops have been established which are owned and run by communities. Usually they are very well stocked often with local produce and homebakes, they also offer an additional opportunity to volunteer and get involved in local life.
If you have children then a local park within walking distance is a definitely a plus, whether that be playing with toddlers on the swings to having a game of football with the family, a friendly outdoor space is fantastic. As children get older and start to be more independent, they can gradually be given more responsibility, and meeting their friends at the park is a great way to do this.
Other community facilities such as allotments, a village Hall, church, post-office, doctor’s surgery, chemist, butchers are all things to think about.
The local watering hole and other leisure activities
A village pub is a British institution and can often be the heart of a community where locals come together to relax and have fun. The future of pubs in rural areas is coming increasingly under threat, as changing economic and social factors make it more difficult for them to continue as sustainable businesses. Each pub closure represents a loss of a local service, a social hub and an employment opportunity; in some cases it can threaten the vibrancy of the village itself. It really is a case of use them or lose them – once a village pub is gone, it may well be gone forever.
Being able to easily access hobbies and activities is also a consideration. If you like to spend your free time playing tennis then locals courts would be an advantage. If your child swims six times a week, then your proximity to a pool is a factor. Remember though, children do grow up – and it’s important to make a decision that suits the whole family.
Moving to a more rural environment comes with its compromises and more often than not, a requirement to travel – thought has to be given to what is important to you and how you can make it work and still retain that all important balance.
People make a community. Meeting like-minded individuals and becoming active in local groups is an attractive element of rural life. Our experience is that, if there is a good range of property sizes in a village then it makes for a good range of people.
Places often carry reputations which can give you a good indication of what the community may be like. Some villages tend to attract an older population which are perhaps less family friendly, whilst others are known for their vibrant community spirit. We were viewing a property and the owner actually advised us that it wasn’t a friendly place to live – and proceeded to share details about the various cliques that existed – suffice to say we didn’t progress.
When you first move in – rather like a starting a new job, resist the temptation to volunteer for everything going. Remember it can take a very long time to become a ‘local’ and after 11 years in our current village we are still getting there.
Our advice would be to spend an afternoon walking round the village, sit on a bench, perhaps sample the local ale in the pub or attend an event that is being hosted. You will soon get a feel for whether the location is right for you.
The provision of good schooling is often an essential consideration for many families when choosing a new place to live. If you have chosen a school that you would like your children to attend, then check out the local authorities’ website to find out the catchment area. Also a school bus route close to home can make a huge difference to daily life.
Transport and the family taxi service
Ask yourself how remote do you want to be – is a 30-minute drive to the nearest supermarket something that you can cope with? Do you need to commute to the office? The more isolated you get then the scarcer transport links become. If your new home is down a single lane with grass growing down the middle, prepare to invest in a 4×4 for when winter comes.
As many parents with children are all too aware, the taxi service of mum and Dad is a daily reality. I read recently that Skoda has launched the “Skoda Parent Taxi” app, which logs the number of miles parents have racked up chauffeuring their offspring and they are then converted automatically into a fare, but rather than clocking up pounds and pence, children will be accumulating a set number of household chores per mile. Great idea.
Outdoor space has always been considered an appealing feature to homeowners, the experience of having to stay at home for months during the current global pandemic has left many of us with a new appreciation for access to the great outdoors and its value to our well-being.
It’s easy to think big especially if you are moving from an inner city, however outdoor space does come with increased time, commitment and cost of upkeep. It always helps to make a list of how do you intend to use it – are you a keen gardener, do you need space for a trampoline, do you do lots of entertaining, do you need a garage, is off road parking important? Once you have prioritised your family requirements then this will help you narrow down what you are looking for and where compromises may have to be made.
My non-negotiable was a big kitchen. My husband’s non-negotiable was off road parking and a garage. Our joint non-negotiable was a village pub.
What if you change your mind?
A change of heart can come with any property purchase, but somehow a move to the country is more emotive. Research can mean everything. It’s easy to fall in love with a house, but communities and amenities are so important and making an informed decision will help. Taking time to consider your needs is a must and we hope you have found our article a good starting point.