Housing Solutions: How to find a house if you can’t afford to buy where you grew up or work

publication date: Sep 22, 2015
author/source: Kate Faulkner, Property Expert and Author of Which? Property Books

How to find a house if you can’t afford to buy where you grew up or work


So you might have lived and grown up in Oxford, London or the very expensive Brighton and Hove, or in the high priced West Bridgford I grew up in, in Nottingham. Now you want to buy or rent locally and not only are the prices all out of your affordability range, but it’s tough to find somewhere nearby to live to.

If you can’t find a house to buy or rent locally, what are your options?
In some areas it won’t be too difficult. Near to West Bridgford in Nottingham there are plenty of areas you can live and still spend your days and nights out having fun in the area you know. Many of my friends have done this.

For example, a one bed flat in West Bridgford is likely to cost around £100,000, some are more, some you can get for around £85,000. If this is too much money, then within half a mile, you can buy a similar one bed flat for around £70,000 or even a two bed terrace in Sneinton.

However, other areas aren’t so easy. Oxford for example is a nightmare. The ‘ring’ around the city centre is basically covered in land which isn’t supposed to be built on and that’s causing serious problems for the area to expand.

Read our - Buying or Renting Checklist

What are your options in somewhere like Oxford?
Well, there are some. For the more adventurous, I did find a houseboat available for under £55,000, just 0.3 miles from Oxford train centre itself. However, not always practical I know.

Well there are some shared ownership properties available, one I found for £125,000 in Headington at Sherwood Place.

But what about considering somewhere like Reading instead? Bizarrely, despite being much closer to London, Reading offers some good deals on property in comparison, is a great place to live and gives you the option of being able to choose jobs from a hugely successful economy between the M4 the M40 and London itself. It’s even easy to travel internationally from Heathrow.

Here you could buy a studio outright for around £130,000 or buy into shared ownership within a half a mile of the station for under £100,000.

Alternatively you could look at somewhere like Bicester, a 45 minute train journey away, but with huge numbers of properties being built there under the plan to make it one of the new garden cities, you can see the plans here. Yes your ticket may cost an extra £1,000 a year, but that’s likely to be a lot less than the extra ‘dead money’ you would pay in mortgage interest trying to stretch yourself to buy or rent in Oxford.

What about if you want to rent?
Unfortunately there doesn’t seem to be much new going on in Oxford itself for renting, so Reading and Bicester are good bets as with buying.

However, Didcot isn’t bad. Yes a two bed would be just under £1,000 a month and if there are two of you, that’s around £500 a month, so £6,000 a year and if you are on around £20k, that’s about 30% of your take home pay, so classed as ‘affordable’. That’s also less than renting a room in Oxford with a group of people, although your bills may be on top so checkout whether city living and sharing a room versus living around 15 to 30 minutes away is the better bet.

An extra bit of good news is many of these properties in Didcot are houses and pretty new, so hopefully in good condition as opposed to the rather damp and sometimes cold Victorian properties that are more standard lets.

Read our - How to rent checklist

Any other options?
When I wanted to buy a home back in 1993, I lived in Croydon and couldn’t afford to buy on my own. The home I bought then was £65,000 and I bought with a friend. Today that home would be around £250,000. Yes it’s a huge increase, but mortgage rates went up to 15% in my day. Today they are just 3-4%. And when I checked, my salary for the same job would have increased at the same rate as the cost of the property, which was interesting, but I was lucky enough to be in a well-paid job and not everyone is in this situation.

So buying with a friend could be an option, just make sure, like I did, you have a written agreement as to what you would do if you split.

Read our - Shared Ownership checklist

Move away?
And the other option is to have a life elsewhere. For example, much of my work is in London, but I don’t have to be there all week. As a result, because I wanted an easier life, instead of having to do a £100,000+ job which meant I worked six days a week and up to 15 hours a day, I decided to resign and move instead.

I don’t earn anything like the money I used to and am down in London probably a couple of times a week, with meeting times that mostly mean I buy off peak. And the house I have is so much cheaper (and bigger!) I don’t need to earn the kind of money I used to either. I do however still work long hours, but thankfully because I enjoy my job!

Having moved away from London I rarely miss out on evenings out there or seeing friends, we just meet up where it’s convenient to both of us and if I am down for a ‘do’ then I stay over. It’s not always an ideal scenario, but it’s an option worth at least considering.

Need help with finding somewhere that you can afford to live and what compromises you can or can’t make? Then do get in contact and we’ll do the best we can to help you.


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