‘We couldn’t afford a home in London’: Family swap ‘teeny’ two-bed flat for Devon house

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Former Londoner Claire Willmer and her partner Kevin Grey, 43, decided to swap London for Devon after they realised they couldn’t afford anywhere to live in the city. The couple lived in a small two-bedroom flat which they rented in Bounds Green, North London. Claire, 39, was a primary school teacher in London who loved the bustle of the city and her urban friends.

However, after having their first child, who is now seven, the couple started to question how sustainable their lifestyle was in London.

In 2017, Claire was expecting her second child, who is now four.

With another child on the way, they soon realised they were going to outgrow their two-bedroom flat.

“At first we didn’t plan to leave London,” Claire told The Evening Standard.

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When the flat above their own came up for sale, it was the perfect opportunity for the couple to try and buy.

However, the asking price of the property – £350,000 – was a “real stretch” for the couple.

In the end, the flat ended up being sold for “much, much more”.

Claire continued: “That was when we realised we were not going to be able to afford anywhere in London where we would want to live.”

Moving to Devon wasn’t a random choice or an aspiration for Claire, in fact, the 39-year-old had roots there, having grown up in the county.

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Claire liked the idea of bringing up her family by the sea and having the support of her parents.

In the end, the couple decided to move to Barnstaple in North Devon where they bought a period, three-bedroom home for just £230,000.

Since moving there, Kevin has found a full-time job with a graphic design firm in Barnstaple, and the couple’s two children are enjoying the local school.

The couple had a third child who is now two, and even have two chickens called Batman and Robin.

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But it wasn’t all plain sailing for Claire who said she was “really, really unhappy” to start with.

She continued: “I felt that we had made a wrong decision.

“I had a job I loved in London and really, really good friends who I missed — and with three children it is hard to get back to visit.”

However, Claire quickly made new friends and even set up a business with her mother called, Time to Cook.

The mum-of-three said she still misses London but enjoys the activities on offer in Devon.

She added: “I do still miss London, the shows and the galleries, and just the feeling of excitement that you get there, but here I do things like sea swimming and paddle boarding, and that is good too.”

Many people left London during the pandemic in the search for more space, a garden and cheaper prices.

However, the capital’s population has started to creep up once again after dropping during the pandemic.

Now, it seems thousands of people, particularly young people, are heading back to London as offices reopen and the hospitality industry bounces back.

This month alone, the number potential buyers enquiring about homes in London has increased by 24 percent, according to Rightmove.

But asking prices aren’t cheap in the capital with the average home coming to market costing a record £667,001, £300,000 more than the UK’s average asking price of £348,804.

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