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Online House Hunter: Heading North

Alan Cleaver
whvn 300x200 Online House Hunter: Heading North

Fine up north: Whitehaven in Cumbria

AS someone who has made the migration from south to north I thought it might be useful to share my experience to help those also thinking of making the journey.

The hardest part of the decision was always going to be, “What if it doesn’t work out – can I move back?”. For me, it was probably going to be a one-way ticket. The difference in cost of homes then (2005) and now means financial hardship trying to buy a home down south again.

My move meant the mortgage could be paid off – the £250,000 home in Winchester was swapped for a £130,000 home in Whitehaven, Cumbria. On the plus side it meant a more secure cash-rich lifestyle. On the ‘downside’ it meant adjusting to a different culture. Moving anywhere means making new friends, finding a new job and finding some connection with the area.

Fortunately for us, my partner’s parents lived here and she had been brought up in Whitehaven so we already had some connections. Without those I suspect it would have been difficult to fit-in even with the traditionally friendly northerners.

The absence of major shopping centres was a bit frightening for the shopaholic in me but in 2005 the boom in online shopping had just begun. If it hadn’t been for internet shopping I might have thought seriously about making the move. I knew I was also going to miss the chance to ‘nip up to London’. From Winchester, London is just an hour’s train journey away. From Whitehaven it’s a painful five hour journey. Whitehaven is a dozen stops away from Carlisle and it’s an hour’s drive to the nearest motorway (the M6).

On the plus side, Whitehaven’s working harbour has been transformed into a modern marina, the sea is just a short walk away (with delightful beaches at St Bees) and the Lake District is just a 20 minute drive away.

Even if your move makes you financially secure, you’ll probably want to work so you need to find out about the job prospects and economic vibrancy of the area to which you are thinking of moving.

Do I regret the move? No, it’s worked out very well but I’ve known others who’ve moved north and regretted moving away from family and friends down south.

Would I do anything different if I did it again? Yes, I’d rent a house here for six months first. That gives you a chance to find out if you’re making a mistake but more importantly takes the pressure of being part of a property chain away. Not having any need to sell in a hurry puts you in a strong bargaining position when selling your old home or buying a new one; a bargaining position that could easily recoup the costs of renting and storage. Renting first, also allows you check out a ’strange’ area and decide where the best place to live permanently might be.

To all those thinking of heading north – come on up, it’s a friendly country. But do your home work first.

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