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Moving to the country?

Leaving the big smoke and looking for that oh-so-perfect house in the country? We at Muddy are here to help!

We’re going to London, to buy Heat Magazine, we’re going to London, to buy Heat Magazine…Actually, no. Most of us are going the opposite way, out of the big smoke and looking for that oh-so-perfect house in the country. Which doesn’t exist, of course. But panic ye not – we at Muddy are here to help you out. Whether you are relocating or moving within your county, we spoke to property search specialist Lisa Witcher of Village and Vale Property Search to get her Top Tips for finding a perfect house in the country.

Most people find moving house an expensive and high stakes business and more often than not they do it without any professional support. How often do you hear people say ‘we were so lucky to find this house’? But this is the biggest capital decision most of us will ever make – is leaving it to luck really the best strategy? The stakes are so high, not only financially but emotionally, and the fallout from a wrong decision could seriously rock family harmony.

Financial logic may say sit tight, don’t move at all, but in the meantime life moves on and children grow up. If inertia is not your thing it may be that your heart is driving the decision. That’s OK, fortune favours the brave and all that, but hang onto your sense of reality about how much time and energy you have to devote to finding that dream house.

Village and Vale was set up to provide support, advice and an extra pair of legs on the ground for us busy lot who basically need someone else to do the leg work (sorry, for people who want to use any time they do have as effectively as possible). But if you want to do it yourself and have time and energy to spare here are some tips that might help you avoid that sinking feeling as you sit freezing in your Grade II Listed idyll in the middle of winter watching the oil gauge plummet and wondering where the stop cock is.

Work out how remote you really want to be. A valley to yourself may be lovely if you are escaping a high pressured job but less so when you are there all the time. Driving the same route several times a day to get the Mudlets to gymnastics can soon crush your enthusiasm for the splendid isolation. Remember, you will no longer be looking at the amazing view through smog tinted lenses. If this move is about achieving a change in lifestyle be realistic about what this actually means. A new house may enable you to change your lifestyle; getting a dog, keeping chickens, growing vegetables, but if nothing else changes in your life and you are still working flat out it won’t make it happen or make it fun.

If the outdoors is important then get the OS map out and spend as much time exploring this as you would finding the house – understand the landscape, the farming practices, the field sports, the footpaths and bridleways and where the kids, sorry you, are gonna walk the pooch.

Get every member of the family to input into your list of ‘must haves’ but think creatively about them. Are they essential at the outset? You can put in the pool and the man cave and the slide from the treehouse right into the littlest Mudlet’s bedroom (yup, that’s what she’s asking for) later.

Doing the research on an area that you believe fits the bill is essential. Be there at different times of the day, week and year if you can. Test out how you would live in that location; discover if the car park at the local station is full by 7am, if the road out of the village floods (or the house!), what the sense of community is etc. If you don’t have time to check this out find someone who knows the answers or will find them out for you.

Be clear on what sort of community you want to be a part of. What the makeup is of the village population? Is it a mixture of people who work locally or commute? Is it a village centred around a particular business or estate? Are they typically retirees or young families? Most importantly, is there a pub?

The ideal property may not be on the market so identify all those properties that might work. There will be fewer than you imagine so consider how best to approach their owners. Write a note or speak to them directly but either way make sure they know of your interest. The thought of everyone dissecting their property on Rightmove might be too awful for some to contemplate but selling their much loved family home to someone they have met who seems genuine and easy to deal with may be bearable. Access the underground communication channels of the dog walking club, the Pilates class, the village school, church, pub and shop and make blooming sure everyone knows that you are ready with cash in your pocket and would be a lovely addition to the village. Sounds horrific, doesn’t it, but it works!

Finding the right house should not be a matter of chance and don’t expect it to happen in what remains of the school holidays. Be flexible and creative but clear on the essentials. Don’t be swayed by a beautifully presented house that showcases all the things you love but can replicated anywhere, or disregard a shabby house that actually could work. Curtains, window seats and built-in cocktail bars are the icing on the cake but can come later – if a property has beautiful icing but a soggy bottom, keep looking.

If you can’t be arsed to do all this yourself, give Lisa a call and she’ll do it for you. Seriously, she will! And we’re not talking fancy-pants relocation agents here, Village and Vale’s services can be targeted to whatever your budget and whatever end of the property market you are looking at. They focus in an area roughly a 30 mile radius of Salisbury but can also help further afield, and will personalise their service depending on what you are after, working on an hourly rate rather than commission so no hefty unexpected bills at the end. Just what we like to hear!

Village and Vale Property Search, tel: 07402 789921 / 01722 717998, lisawitcher@villageandvalepropertysearch.co.uk

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