We swapped renting in London for a countryside home with energy-saving features
Although they loved London living, Rebecca, a journalist, and Toby, a cyber security technician, had outgrown not only their 2-bedroom rented maisonette, but also their noisy neighbours…
They knew they wanted to move out of the city, for a slower pace of life and a home with more living space. But the big question was: where to move to?
They wanted somewhere with an easy commute into the city for work, and to still be able to access green spaces and the shops, cafes, and restaurants, that had become part of their life in London.
As a keen runner and (fair weather) cyclist, Toby was also looking for access to local routes and trails, while Rebecca wanted a kitchen big enough to practice her baking hobby, and plenty of storage space for her collection of classic and modern literature.
“We were very specific in what we wanted – you only needed to look at our behemoth spreadsheet to see that,” jokes Rebecca.
“And Rightmove really helped us to narrow down our shortlist, so we were only looking at homes that suited our needs.” The couple checked where they could live to narrow down the areas that were within budget, and still within a commuting time that would work for them. They were then able to filter their results, to make sure they were only seeing homes that fit with their non-negotiables. Rebecca and Toby then started checking things that were important to them, like Ofsted scores, nearby green space, and local nursery fees.
They then checked local average prices and historic sold prices while they were researching locations, to work out how much the areas they were considering differed in price.
While sorting through their search results, they soon discovered Wintringham, a new development from Cala Homes in Cambridgeshire. And best of all? It offered the couple the balance they were looking for. They’d be able to commute to central London in less than an hour, while still having on-the-doorstep green space, local lakes and tranquil wildflower meadows.
“To be honest, we weren’t looking for a new home initially, and other things we originally thought were must-haves – like a garage – soon became less important. We realised we’d be just as happy with a large shed!” laughs Rebecca. “The development ticked lots of our boxes, and because it’s a new-build home, it didn’t have any of the renovation or maintenance requirements that can come with an older property.”
After viewing a show home at the development, the couple decided that Wintringham was the right place for them. “The home we’d eventually purchase was still being built, so the show home gave us a chance to compare fixtures and fittings, visualise our space, and get a real sense of what our house was going to be like,” says Rebecca. “It was great to have a blank canvas to decorate however we wanted, and we were given a variety of options to choose from for things like kitchen fittings, flooring, and bathroom styles, as well as the tiling. We also had all of the measurements of our new home in advance, which meant we could start buying furniture ahead of our move-in date.”
As the couple were first-time buyers, the conveyancing process was relatively smooth, with no onward chain to consider. “When we found out the house was ours, we just felt a mix of relief and elation. After getting married earlier in the year, it felt like a continuation of the adventure – to finally have the keys to our new home and be able to start our next chapter there.”
A welcome surprise and a change of setup…
Rebecca and Toby chose a home to match their needs at the time: a three-bedroom house, with the intention of using the smallest bedroom as an office. But just two days after moving in, they discovered they were expecting their daughter. “Our plans for the rooms changed pretty drastically after that news!” says Rebecca. “The office room has now been transformed into our daughter’s nursery, who’s just turned one. I love that our bedrooms are all self-contained on one floor, so if we’re up in the night, there’s no trudging up and down stairs!”
An added bonus of lower energy bills
Another thing that attracted Toby and Rebecca to Wintringham was their home’s energy-efficient features. Rebecca and Toby have many A-rated kitchen appliances to reduce the water and power required to run them, as well as energy-efficient lighting. New homes are built with insulation and airflow in mind to maximise energy efficiency, and the majority of properties at the Cala Homes development have an EPC rating of B.
“It’s such a bright and airy space, and the rooms retain heat really well,” says Rebecca. “Since having our daughter we’ve inevitably had the heating on more, but we haven’t seen a big increase in our energy bills as a result of this, which has been a nice surprise.”
The insulated wall cavities, and double-glazed windows also help with heat retention, and are a welcome feature, especially heading into the colder winter months.
“We’re also finding that when we do put the heating on, we don’t need it on for hours on end because the house is so well insulated. Which is also helping to keep our energy bills down.”
It’s easy to forget how significant a lot of the unseen costs can be when moving into a new home. If you’re thinking of moving, it could be worth checking a home’s EPC, to give you an idea of how energy efficient it is, and how much energy you might need to keep it warm.
And any advice to others thinking of moving?
“We’d definitely say to do your research if you’re considering a big relocation, especially if it’s to an area you know nothing about, and don’t know anyone there.
“We wanted to make sure the area would work for us. We even stayed the night in the local area before making an offer on our home, to get a real feel for it – and to do a test drive of the dreaded commute!” laughs Rebecca. “We also visited in different seasons, to try and make sure that as well as on a gorgeous summer day (when everywhere looks lovely!) we’d still feel at home here on a cold and grey day in January. I suppose for us, it helped us feel like we’d made a sensible and informed choice when we eventually decided it was the place for us. Lots of our neighbours have also made the move from London, and it’s been great to see – with the support of the housebuilder – the community growing around us.”
Photography by Joe Woodhouse.