House Hunter: 'We're relocating to London and need a garage, a garden and good schools'

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The Independent Online

Dean Smith writes: "My company is moving me from Scotland to central London, which is a major life change for myself and my family.

THE PROBLEM

Dean Smith writes: "My company is moving me from Scotland to central London, which is a major life change for myself and my family. I have worked with my current IT company for about eight years and promotion has brought the chance to live and work in the South-east. Although I will miss Scotland, it is nevertheless an exciting prospect for me and my family and we are very excited about the move. I have been to London on a couple of occasions to sort out my office and to look for property but so far I've been unable to find an area suitable for our needs.

"I have a wife, Katie, and two children, aged six and eight, so I am looking for a home with a garden, near good schools and one where there is a garage as I own a vintage car. I think Katie will need to find work to cope with South-east property prices, so the home also needs to be within easy access of areas providing good employment opportunities. The problem is that although I have read that prices in the South-east are high I was under the impression that in recent months things had slowed a little. However, compared to Edinburgh, which itself is not cheap, they do seem substantially higher.

"My problem is that London is such a great metropolis that I really do not know where to start, and I haven't met my new work colleagues yet to ask their advice.

"I am floundering in that I do not know where to find suburbia within easy access of London for me, schools for the girls, and a safe, pleasant environment that is also within my price range, which is around £350,000."

THE ADVICE

"Dean doesn't say where he will be working in London, but as long as he has access to Victoria or Charing Cross stations, most areas are within reach. My first suggestion is Croydon. This is a major town with plenty of shopping and excellent nightlife. It also boasts superb road and rail links to central London, Gatwick and the south coast. The town has a new tram line with quick links to Wimbledon, where Katie may find work with one of the many large companies based there.

"Croydon also has parks and glorious countryside in Shirley Hill, a few miles out of town, and is renowned for schools such as Park Hill primary school, Archbishop Tenison's Grammar School, Coloma and Croham Hurst for girls and Whitgift and Trinity for boys.

"In Croydon, Park Hill is a sought-after area that offers a wide choice of homes, with garages and private gardens around courtyards. These are relatively modern so require little maintenance, thus helping their finances in the first few years. The homes are within walking distance of the town centre, park and station. Prices are within Dean and Katie's budget: a three-bedroom terraced townhouse starts from around £254,950 and three-bedroom, semi-detached houses from around £325,000.

"Another area that is popular with young families is Beckenham, Kent. Though not as large as Croydon, the town nevertheless has plenty of supermarkets, shops, boutiques, bars and restaurants along the high street and, again, boasts a number of glorious parks and open spaces. Transport facilities via Beckenham station are very good and schools, too, are of a high calibre.

"Beckenham grew to prominence in the Thirties, when it expanded rapidly with the building of many substantial, semi-detached houses. These offer good-sized rooms, spacious gardens and garages, which would be perfect for Dean's vintage car. Prices start from £270,000 for a three-bedroom, semi detached Thirties house and from around £320,000 for a four-bedroom semi-detached house.

"I feel certain that Dean and his family will find that properties in the South-east are within his budget and do offer a very good lifestyle in terms of facilities. Living in the suburbs gives you a good home base yet a journey to work in London is less than an hour."

THE SOLUTION

Property one: Radcliffe Road, Croydon.

Price: £325,000.

Agent: Wates Residential (Park Hill), 020-8680 2422.

Agent's details: This is a semi-detached, Georgian-style house that has three/four bedrooms, a fitted kitchen, cloakroom, double glazing and gas radiator central heating. There are also front and rear gardens.

Property two: Altyre Close, Beckenham, Kent.

Price: £310,000.

Agent: Andrew Reeves, 020-8658 2566; www.andrewreeves.co.uk.

Agent's details: A substantial family home set in a quiet cul-de-sac close to the ever-popular Langley Park schools, shops, bus routes and train stations. This well-presented home has two large reception rooms, a fitted kitchen, utility room, conservatory and downstairs shower with three bedrooms and bathroom upstairs. There are well-tended gardens to front and rear, garage and additional off-street parking. Internal viewing is highly recommended.

Property three: Bardsley Close, Park Hill.

Price: £254,950.

Agent: Wates Residential (Park Hill), 020-8680 2422.

Agent's details: This is a Wates-built, mid-position three-storey townhouse with a refitted kitchen and bathroom. There is a living/dining room, three bedrooms and the property has gas radiator central heating and double glazing. Underneath the property there is a 30ft-long garage and there is also a small paved garden.

Steve Hayler is director of operations for Wates Residential: 020-8668 8231

THE VERDICT

"I like the idea of suburbia rather than being in Clapham or Islington, where I have looked to date. Croydon and Beckenham sound like the type of area where we live now, which would make the move easier for us. Schooling is vitally important as we want a good education for our girls and for them to be near home so that they can make good friends. As for commuting time, these areas are within an hour of central London, which is absolutely fine. It can take that long to drive to work in Edinburgh if traffic is heavy. I'd like to move by the end of the year so on my next trip will definitely visit these areas."

If you would like House Hunter's help, write to House Hunter, The Independent, 191 Marsh Wall, London E14 9RS, or e-mail with full details: househunter@independent.co.uk

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