I made the decision a few years back that when the children finished school I was going to head to the coast. I wasn’t going to pine for the days when my children were small and school was the focus, no if they could be off having adventures, then so could I!
But then I got stuck, which part of the actual coastline did I mean? I’d looked at properties in Rye and if you’ve followed the blog for a while you’ll know I came very close to buying there. In the last year the property market down in that part of East Sussex has really stalled and I got nervous first that there was very little I liked (and I would be settling for whatever I could get) and second that I would find it hard to sell on when I was ready to move. And what if I didn’t actually like living there? Then what?
So I started looking in Suffolk; I have family there, but property was moving so fast in that area that I never even got to view any of the properties I earmarked. And then I thought about Essex because I also have friends there – but my heart wasn’t really in that search and then someone suggested Kent, by which point my search area was so diverse that I couldn’t compare the specific properties objectively. Confused of Dulwich, please step up!
The only way forward was a very pragmatic process of defining what criteria I wanted for my new home. It had to be in a town – not a village – with beach access walking distance from the house. It had to have good transport links to London; nowhere further than 60-90 minutes from the centre of town. It had to have three or more bedrooms, it had to be spacious enough in the communal areas that I could have guests regularly so that the teenagers could arrive with a crowd and not cause a problem. It had to have outdoor space for the dog and I wanted it to be pretty. It had to have reasonable street parking and be walking distance to the train station. It had to be sound – no complete wrecks, I just didn’t have the budget for that – and in good enough decorative order that I could move in without doing works immediately. (This last one was flexible but what I really didn’t want was a property that needed to be modernised; they’re as costly as wrecks.)
Then I started to refine what that might mean for locations and Rye, my old favourite was right on the boundary distance wise. Suffolk was completely out because the coast is on a branch line from Ipswich and the areas I liked were driving distance from train stations. The Essex coast is the same. Brighton of course, is the most obvious choice because it’s only an hour by train, but I’ve never been that interested in living in Brighton, it’s a bit too hen and stag nights for me. So that was when Kent raised its head and lo and behold the high speed links to France travel right through Kent (Rye is accessed by the same line,) which suddenly made this part of the world more accessible and late last year I went on a recce to Ramsgate.
And what did I find?? A very nice little town, a bit scruffy but with a handful of lovely restaurants, cafes and shops, a Royal harbour that was the departure point of the Little Ships operation to Dunkirk in WWII, sandy beaches hugging the cliff face on which the town is built, very lovely housing stock and lots and lots of building work going on. Hmmm, for an interior designer that was interesting…
Then I looked on internet property listings and found that the prices in Ramsgate were within my budget – and there were some pretty houses for sale. I went down to stay for a weekend.
I had a really nice time.
I went back and viewed two houses. I had an offer accepted on the one I fell for and was so excited! But then it transpired that there were no consents for building works and the house was listed. It’s a criminal offence to alter a listed building without consent… So after a few weeks of watching the situation unravel and having to consider the possibility of being fined because of the sellers negligence, I pulled out.
So the search began again and this time, it all went through. I’m now the proud owner of a four bedroom house in Ramsgate with a big garden and – bonus – it’s not a listed building! Naturally I want to do work to it and as we’re not moving down for another six weeks I’m hoping to get a couple of rooms redecorated before the removal vans pull up outside.