Property: The school's fine, but the journey ...

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Indy Lifestyle Online
You may live in your dream house, but if you spend two hours each day driving the children back and forth, maybe it's time to think about moving. Mary Wilson talked to people who fought free of the school run

Running children to and from school can take an inordinate amount of time out of the day, especially if you have children at more than one school. And many people who move out of London for a better quality of life find that there may be less pollution and less traffic, but they are spending more time in the car because the schools are some distance away.

Ann-Helen and Tony English had lived for 12 years in a beautiful Grade II* listed 15th-century house in Harrow Weald, Middlesex, which they and their children loved.

"It was a stunning old farmhouse, set in the middle of a massive garden," says Mrs English, who is an artist with a studio in Finsbury Park.

"However, when my daughter Dominique, who is now 10 years old, started to go to school in Hampstead, it was taking me anything from half an hour to an hour to drive her to school. And when my youngest daughter, Gabriella, [now six] started at school, I was spending another half-an-hour getting through Hampstead Village, and then the same again getting to work.

"I would get to my studio and then have to turn around to go home to pick her up again at 12. It was terrible, and bad for everybody's health".

Although the family did not want to leave their lovely house and garden, they realised that they had to move nearer to the schools to improve the quality of their lives. So they have now bought a Thirties mock-Tudor house opposite Golders Hill Park, NW11.

"The noise of the traffic does get to me, but we are lucky enough to be facing the Hampstead Heath extension, which helps. I now can walk to school with my children through the park. It takes only five minutes, and I reckon I have saved around five hours a day," says Mrs English.

Liz Newman, of Goldschmidt & Howlands Hampstead office, which sold the house to the Englishes, says: "We get quite a number of people moving to Hampstead to get closer to the schools. I have one woman, who lives in Kensington, west London, looking at the moment. Her children go to school in Hampstead, and she is fed up with sitting in the car all day."

Tony Mullucks, of Mullucks Wells & Associates, in Bishops Stortford, Hertfordshire, says: "I have just sold a house on the east side of town, near the Hertfordshire & Essex High School, because it was so close to the school. It is in a no through road, so it is quite safe for children to walk to school every day.

"That means that if there are after-school activities, or sports on Saturday morning, the parents don't have to ferry them back and forth. And if they start at the school at 11 years old and then go on to Cambridge, perhaps, the family knows it can be settled in one house for at least 10 years, as the station is close by, too," says Mr Mullucks.

Properties close to a school tend to be about 10 per cent more expensive than equivalent houses that are less conveniently placed, but parents are often happy to pay the extra price for their freedom. At the other side of the town, the same situation applies to houses near Bishop Stortford College.

"Any house within walking distance carries a premium" says Tony Mullucks, "and I can see that premium increasing as roads become more congested". The agent is selling two new five-bedroom houses close to the college, the playing fields and the primary school for pounds 335,000 each.

Families are moving into Guildford, Surrey, too, if their children go to one of the several excellent schools in the city.

"I recently sold a five-bedroom modern house in Tormead Road to a family who had lived in Dorking. They wanted to move to Guildford to escape the previously lengthy school run taking their child to the High School," says Keith Remington, of Curchods.

The agent has a five-bedroom Thirties house in Grove Road, within walking distance of most of the Guildford schools, on the market for 420,000.

And in Ipswich, the same inward movement is occurring. Bidwells has been retained to find a client a substantial house, with one main proviso - that it be no more than 15 minutes away from Woodbridge School, which his children are attending.

"More clients are making it clear that they will view only properties that are a short distance from the local school," says Guy Jenkinson, of Bidwells.

Paul Greenwood, managing director of Stacks Relocation, often sees parents buy a home in a second-choice area because of the school run. "Purchasers often put journey time from school as a top priority when property-hunting.

"Houses within five miles of good schools are in great demand, and sell for a significant premium, but they may also come up for sale more often. Turnover is higher, as the home may be sold for something more suitable in a different location once the children have left school."

He suggests that it is worth practising the school run, in both directions, at the appropriate time both morning and afternoon before committing yourself to a property. "Traffic patterns may be such that a property that is farther away may in fact be better in terms of travel time, which is the crucial factor," he says.

Goldschmidt & Howland, 0171-435 4404; Mullucks Wells & Associates, 01279 755400; Stacks Relocation, 01666 860523; Curchods, 01932 874488; Bidwells, 01223 841841.

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