Fancy a leafy new life in Northants? Don’t buy anything until you’ve read this.
The grass really is greener in Northants, but be sure to check out Stacks Property Finder extraordinaire Rachel Johnston's insider tips before you make the move.
Country life has rarely held such sweeping appeal for such a huge tranche of the population and it doesn’t get much more countryfied than the county of spires and squires. As a Northants native gone rogue (having lived in London, Oz, New Zealand and even *gasps* Bucks for a time) moving back to the shire after twenty years and with a husband and two kids in tow was made considerably more straightforward for me by having family and friends here, but I’m not sure it made the house-hunting process any simpler. We spent a good two years looking for our forever home and I have little doubt it would have been a lot easier had we enlisted the expertise of Stacks Property Finder Rachel Johnston.
If you’re looking to make the leap to Northamptonshire (and I can heartily recommend it), Rachel is your go-to pro, with over a decade of expertise under her belt and all the contacts to find you your dream home in a jiffy. What’s more, before she worked as a Property Finder, Rachel actually hired Stacks to find her own home here in Northants, so she knows exactly how crucial the service can be to finding The One.
Where do you advise intrepid house-hunters to start?
Northants is a big county, so trim your search area. Think about which fixed points there are in your search. Do you have extended family to think about and how often do you need to visit them? Do you expect to commute and, if so, do you need good road or rail links? Depending on where you’re looking, you might find the nearest train station or shopping centre is outside the county, so be open minded about this. If you’re looking near Towcester, you’ll probably be heading to MK for the train to London, up near Oundle it might be Peterborough and if you’re heading for Aynho it’ll be Bicester or Banbury, so that’s worth taking in to consideration.
Often, the key to finding what you want is to think about how you want to live, not what you want to buy. How rural do you really want to go? Are you hankering for a hermitage with acres of land and no neighbours; village life with a community vibe and maybe a primary school and a country pub; or something semi-urban like a market town with a high school, GP and a few cafes and shops? It’s worth taking some time to think about which type of country dwelling most appeals, as it will make it considerably easier to narrow down your search.
Northants property has its own unique character, so try not to be an armchair expert as there’s no beating getting out and viewing property. Pick an area, view 4 or 5 in a day in your price range in that patch and leave time to explore the location around each one. It’s essential to get out of the car and explore the area.
What are the key things to look out for?
Northants has all types of property, but classic ironstone – think Cotswolds but warmer – village properties are going to be the most sought after. There are usually 3 or 4 larger houses per village, although cottages can be quite large too. Don’t discount newer build houses either – the dimensions for modern living will be there, and you can add beauty internally and externally to almost anything.
Schooling options are impressive – from top boarding schools like Oundle and Winchester House to sought-after state schools and, in some areas, you can access grammar options in other counties, so bear all of this in mind when considering your target area.
Has Covid had an impact on the Northants market?
There’s a chronic lack of stock across the county, which has certainly been exacerbated with more people being able to work remotely, so when things come on (if you see them online at all) there’s likely to be competitive bidding. You need to have done your research and be ready to be decisive.
One positive outcome is that there’s much more information available online around how the community reacted to Covid, so your research will help you to understand more about a community.
What’s the best location for commuters?
Northants is pretty much slap bang in the middle of the country, so one of the many benefits of living here is that the transport links are brilliant and where you base yourself depends on where you need to be specifically. If you’re heading south to Euston or north to Birmingham, Liverpool or Manchester, look around Kettering, Wellingborough, Northampton, Market Harborough and Towcester. For trains to Marylebone you’ll be looking around Banbury & Bicester, which sit right alongside the Northants border (Bicester Village also has trains to Paddington) and for trains to Farringdon and easy access to The City, the Bedford & Flitwick line is just 20 minutes from Rushden by car.
The proximity of the M1 and M40 motorways give easy access to Birmingham, Coventry and Leicester. Luton is the most convenient international airport, with Birmingham also easily accessible along the M40 or M1 / M6. Heathrow is round the corner at the bottom of the M40 too
Where is best for young families or families with teens?
Northants have been very good over the years of keeping the village schools going, and a small local school is an excellent way to meet friends and playmates for all the family. Resign yourselves to being a taxi driver for older kids – there’s loads to do across the county, but you’ll probably have to get them there!
Why choose Northants?
Northants is still something of a well-kept secret. It’s as gorgeous as the Cotswolds but without the price tag or coach loads of tourists. You’ll find picturesque stone-built cottages and grand houses set in rolling countryside, prosperous market towns with charming heritage vibes stocked with elegant and substantial properties, and an abundance of agricultural and equestrian properties if you’re wanting to go the full monty. You’ll get considerably more bang for your buck here than you would in neighbouring Oxfordshire or Buckinghamshire too.
What’s the damage – what can people expect to pay?
Specific values vary enormously. If something seems a lot for the money, don’t dismiss it suspiciously – work out why, perhaps it is something you can live with.
Best value in terms of pounds per square foot is going to be in the east of the county, the villages round Corby, Wellingborough and Kettering have some fabulous property which would be out of most budgets in the Cotswolds and it’s marvellously commutable as well.
Best kept secret?
The Golden Triangle, nestled between Daventry, Banbury and Towcester has some amazing countryside and villages with some well known residents choosing to live here including Jo Wiley and Claudia Schiffer, so you’ll be in excellent company.
Should I rent first?
It could be a risky strategy. The market is continuing to rise at a rapid rate and binding contracts may mean you could be tied in for much longer than you’d like, finding house purchases problematic. Some sellers may even be put off if they think conveyancing might be delayed due to rental agreements. It’s always best if you can be ready to move very quickly to secure your dream home, or sit tight and wait a long time.
Any insider intel?
It’s crucial to realise that not everything will be advertised online for a variety of reasons, so don’t just assume the apps will show you what you’re searching for.
Being represented by a professional buying agent with relationships with the estate agents built over years can be invaluable in being the ‘chosen one’ in a competitive bidding situation. Recent clients of mine were picked over two other parties willing to pay considerably more, due to the added value my input was perceived to bring to the process, so don’t discount the powers of enlisting a search agent.