For city-centre dwellers, an escape to the country can seem an enticing prospect. Not only does the countryside come with connotations of fresh air and wholesome living, but there’s also the compelling fact that in rural locations your money will often go a lot further.
Country living isn’t for everyone, however, and it’s a choice that comes with its own set of complications. So before you sell up your South London flat and move to a barn conversion in the Cheviots, there are a few things worth considering.
Depending on your profession, you might find it harder to get a job that matches your skills, and it’s possible the jobs won’t pay the kind of salary you’re used to. Working remotely is a great way to get round this, but you need to be confident you can do without the discipline and order of an office environment. If you’re thinking of going freelance for the first time, double check your most pessimistic estimates to be absolutely sure you can bring the work in. In practical terms, rural broadband still isn’t great in many areas, so do some research.
It’s highly unlikely you’ll have a supermarket within walking distance, and you might not even have a village shop. You’ll almost certainly need to run at least one car (with all the associated costs), and possibly resign yourself to lengthy commutes or school runs.
You might not have all the utility infrastructure you’re used to. This could mean oil-fired central heating, bottled gas or septic tanks to deal with. Open fires are a joy, but replacing back boilers or relining chimneys can be an expensive business. Many rural properties are also in older buildings, and apart from increased maintenance costs, homes like these can also be less energy-efficient, leading to higher bills.
The quiet life
It sounds obvious, but your social life is going to be a bit different. The village pub could be brilliant, but it could also be a lifeless tumbleweed boozer, and there may not even be one. Getting to restaurants, bars or cinemas will probably mean taking the car, and drink-driving is just as illegal in the sticks as it is in town. Company your own age might also be thin on the ground.
On the other hand, you might find that within a month of moving in, you’re longing for the peace of the city, after being press-ganged into the fire brigade, the church choir, the WI and the dominoes team.
You can have the best of both worlds
But you’ll pay a lot more for it. There’s a reason all those chocolate-box villages in the Cotswolds – with their excellent train connections – are full of forty-something city workers in red trousers.
It can be difficult to go back
City property tends to appreciate more quickly than rural property, and a recent study (November 2015) predicted that between now and 2020, property values in Greater London and the South East will show the fastest growth, while cities like Manchester, Leeds, Edinburgh and Bristol will continue to ‘outperform their regional markets’. So if you sell up your flat in central Manchester for a farm cottage in the Yorkshire Dales, then decide three years later that you want to move back to the city, you might have to settle for something rather more modest than your old flat.
It’s not all doom and gloom
While you need to go into it with your eyes open, rural living can be a wonderful fit for the right kind of person, and the joy of British villages is that each one is different. If you look hard enough, and are honest with yourself about the compromises you’re prepared to make, you’ll find a rural property that’s right for you.
As a final thought, small-town living can be a good half-way house. Such places often have lower property values and a less impersonal atmosphere than the big cities, while also providing amenities and good transport links.