We speak to a couple who were hard hit financially by the pandemic but found they could swap their home in the capital for a new, much more spacious life in the country.

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  • Welcome to Home Truths, the tell-all series where homeowners and renters spill the beans on what really goes on behind the scenes when buying, moving or renting a property. 

    Moving story at a glance:

    Age: 46 and 47

    Job: sales manager and cafe owner

    Income: £35,000 combined over the past 12 months

    House cost: £515,000

    Deposit paid: £390,000 approx

    Mortgage payments: £600 a month

    Mortgage interest rate: 2%

    Money spent on renovations: £0 so far, estimate around £5,000 to redecorate

    Flying solo or buying together? together

    What’s your home like?

    It’s a detached red brick house, which was I think originally built in the 1960s but has been added to over the years by previous owners.

    It’s a bit of a funny shape, lots of intersecting triangles, but the space inside is fabulous, totally massive, so big you get lost wandering around it.

    It has four good-sized bedrooms and one sort of office/box room, plus a big downstairs playroom for the kids and a separate dining room, big eat-in kitchen and a living room that looks out over the garden. It has two bathrooms and a downstairs cloakroom.

    We love the house, but really we bought the place for the garden. It’s a huge outdoor space which has lots of different levels and pathways and an old pond.

    The people who lived here before us clearly loved gardening and we have big plans for creating a veg patch and greenhouse. Basically, we swapped London to live in an episode of The Good Life.

    When did you move in? 

    In April 2021. It took about six months for everything to go through, as we were in a chain with another buyer above and below us. But it was faster than I expected, actually.

    Why Norfolk?

    We’re originally from Cambridgeshire, so wanted to be within a reasonable drive of family there. We love the countryside here, there are great market towns and the coast is beautiful.

    We got a dog recently and the walks are just sensational. Also, it was a pragmatic decision because we could buy an awful lot of house in Norfolk, whereas in Cambridgeshire the money didn’t stretch quite so far.

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    How do you make your new home work financially?

    We’ve had a horrible year with the Covid-19 pandemic. We’d invested in a business together two years ago, running a small cafe. As you’d expect from a new business, we basically broke even during the first year and were just gearing up to making some proper money when we went into the first lockdown.

    The cafe closed for several months and reopened for takeaway a bit later, but we never really recovered from those early losses.

    My husband went back to his old career in sales part-time to keep things together financially and I home schooled the kids and kept the business limping along.

    Because our income dipped so much we felt really stuck as we’d have struggled to get another mortgage. However, we were really lucky because we could port our existing mortgage without the lender doing another affordability check.

    We’d bought our two-bedroom flat in Walthamstow in 2012 for £250,000, and we accepted an offer on it for £515,000 in late 2020.

    The flat sold in less than a week, which meant we knew how much we could spend on a house somewhere else.

    It took us about two months to find the Norfolk house. It was on the market for a bit more, but we offered exactly £515,000. It’s fab because we have been able to keep our mortgage repayments reasonable, which is especially good right now as we’re living on one income.

    Any regrets?

    Only that we didn’t do it sooner. With two kids and a dog loving the space, it seems crazy we stayed in that small flat for nearly a decade without our own garden.

    We will miss London and our friends over the longer term I’m sure, and we need to find jobs and work out what we’re going to do in the area. But the kids have started their new school already.

    Just having more breathing space and a big patch of earth to dig has given me a sense that everything will work out for us here.

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