Sylvia Kyan, her partner Richard and their two daughters are selling their south London flat, where they have lived for over five years, and buying in Colchester, Essex, from where Richard will commute. Their motivation for moving is a familiar story: the pursuit of space which is unaffordable in London - but their choice of location, a town rather than the countryside, surprised local estate agents.
"They tried to persuade us to look at more rural houses by telling us how popular the villages are, but if they are then why aren't they selling?" asks Sylvia. The couple discovered that most Colchester stock is newly- built and currently goes for around pounds 60,000-pounds 70,000, with few available properties in their price range (around pounds 100,000), or to their taste. Eventually, for pounds 90,000 they found a three-bedroomed Victorian semi with a garden, near the town centre: "We're pleased financially as in south London a similar house fetches around pounds 150,000." London exiles commonly opt for a less urban lifestyle, but not Sylvia: "I grew up in a small village where the last bus goes at 6.30pm and it's impossible to have a social life. My children are only going to get bigger, and I don't want that sort of life for them. I don't drive and couldn't handle the isolation."
But a rural location does not necessarily lead to a hermetic existence. Eighteen months ago, Lucinda and Simon Hopkins sold their one-and-a-half bedroomed London flat and bought a three-bedroomed house in the remote Lincolnshire village of Winterton. Overlooking the village church, they are surrounded by fields but proximity to their families means that isolation is never a problem: "We go out a lot more here than we ever did in London," says Lucinda.
Initially finding village life challenging ("if you talk about someone in a pub, you must remember that everyone knows everyone else and are probably related"), they are settled in an area where their children can walk to school and, in winter, when the trees have no leaves, they "wave to them from the house while they are in the playground".
There are many advantages, but has the transition been difficult? "People say `you must miss the shopping' as though I was always up and down Oxford Street." There is one drawback: "We used to have a stack of takeaway leaflets to choose from, but here there isn't even an Indian restaurant."
But leaving London's commuter chaos is not something Simon regrets: "Now the only things to slow me down are tractors and pheasants."
Permanence does not reassure everyone. GP Jane Saleem is about to leave Southwark, in London, for Bristol where her husband will work as a consultant. Having sold their seven- bedroomed Victorian semi for pounds 330,000, they found the Internet useful for househunting: "You punch in an area, a price range, and get a list of properties." Prices on a par with the capital initially surprised them, but Jane sees advantages should they ever wish to return: "Despite being alarmed, I'm reassured by the idea of buying in a buoyant area where prices will hopefully mirror London."
The couple also discovered that a booming market like Bristol's increasingly sees a practice more commonly found in London, the sealed bid: "We weren't too worried, as our present home was bought this way." Their offer, pounds 350,000, secured them a six-bedroomed house in a desirable part of the city and, importantly with four children, access to good schools. Did rural splendour not tempt them? "Part of the reason for choosing to live in the city comes from being in a mixed-race relationship and being Muslim, which would be hard in a village. I like the breadth of thinking that comes from living in a cosmopolitan area, and we've come to the decision that we are urban folk."Reuse content