If you’re moving back to the UK after spending time in Hong Kong or even going to live in the UK for the first time, there’s a good chance that you’ll be looking for somewhere to live.
Even if you have an existing property, you may well feel that it’s time for a change of scene and be looking for somewhere new to lay down roots after time spent abroad.
In many respects, there’s nothing better than a blank canvas when it comes to choosing where to live. You can set your own criteria and take your time to find somewhere that ticks all your boxes.
To help you with your search, here are some of the criteria you might want to consider, and then an overview of some of the regions of the UK that you might find attractive.
It’s always worth having a plan
As with any important venture involving a big financial commitment, it’s worth starting with a plan.
You’ll probably have at least an outline idea of what you’re looking for, but to get you started here are some of the criteria you might want to consider.
Access to a large city
In this case, we mean proximity to places like London, Birmingham, and Manchester. Not only do they offer the usual big city attractions – and busy commercial centres – but will also be close to large airports if you’re still going to be internationally mobile.
Proximity to where you work
It may be useful to be close to your office, although the rise in home working – especially post-Covid – means this may be less of a driving force than previously.
Access to good schools
If you have children, then somewhere close to good schools – either private or in the public sector – will always be a consideration.
Cultural, sporting and shopping considerations
Big cities will tend to offer all of these, but obviously, your choice is dependent on your specific requirements and interests.
The amount of space you want
Obviously, the size of the property will be a key driver – especially if you’re used to the predominance of apartment life in Hong Kong. But the amount of open space around where you live may also be something you’ll want to bear in mind.
Let’s now look at some of the areas generally regarded as the top places to live.
1. Central London
If price is no restrictor, then the centre of London is clearly a top choice.
However, there are downsides. Property inflation means that living in the centre of London can be incredibly expensive, especially if you’re looking for a decent amount of space. At the time of writing (August 2021), you can expect to pay in excess of £1.5 million in the very centre of the city.
Even areas slightly outside the centre, such as Notting Hill or the Millennium Dome village on the Greenwich peninsula, would still require a seven-figure sum for something suitable for a family.
2. Outer London
Outside the centre of London, but still within the M25 and therefore “Greater London”, you’ll get more for your money.
Around some of the bigger towns, such as Bromley, Croydon, Richmond, Kingston, Enfield, and Harrow, you can pick up a very substantial house with a garden for around £1 million.
Transport links into the centre of the city are good, and there’s the additional advantage of being only a short drive to the green belt heading the other way.
3. Outside the M25 – the southern home counties
Here, we’re specifically looking at Kent, Surrey, Sussex, and Hampshire.
As you move further away from London, prices fall exponentially – although there are some sought-after areas that can still be very expensive.
You’re never more than about an hour’s drive from the coast and, in Kent, you have the added benefit of a fast train-link to the continent via the Channel Tunnel.
Larger towns like Faversham, Horsham, Guildford, and Haywards Heath, as well as cities such as Canterbury and Winchester, are all attractive in their own right and have very pleasant villages surrounding them.
On the coast itself, Whitstable, Shoreham, and Brighton are all sought-after and popular. They all offer a mix of restaurants, lively culture, and coastal life.
4. West of London – the “M4 corridor”
The M4 connects London to the West Country and also provides links to many good places to live between the two.
You can veer off north to Oxfordshire and towns like Witney, Oxford itself, Bicester, and Chipping Norton. All of these still offer a manageable journey into London, especially if you’re only travelling in for work once a week. The big attraction is the size of property you’ll get for your money, and the amount of open space outside the bigger towns.
It’s a similar story closer to the M4 in towns like Maidenhead and Newbury.
Further out of London, and probably too far out for regular commuting – and therefore cheaper – are attractive options like Chippenham and Marlborough.
5. The south-west – Dorset and Devon
Further along the M4, you get to the south-west counties of Devon and Dorset.
Generally seen as top UK holiday destinations, they offer proximity to the coast and better weather, with the trade winds off the Atlantic keeping the temperature relatively ambient.
One thing to bear in mind about this whole area is that many people have second homes there, rather than their main residence, which could be something to consider.
The main coastal resort in Dorset is Bournemouth which, as well as being a decent place to live in itself, is surrounded by attractive smaller towns and villages like Lymington, Christchurch and Poole.
Further along the coast into Devon, Sidmouth, Exmouth, and Lyme Regis on the south coast are all sought-after, as well as smaller towns and villages on the, slightly wilder, north Devon coast.
6. The Midlands around Birmingham
Often seen as the “second city” – though Manchester would probably take issue with that – Birmingham can offer a lot of the commercial and cultural aspects of London, at a much cheaper price.
It’s had a definite spruce up in the last decade or so, with massive investment in the city centre making it an attractive option for shopping, business, and culture.
The two most popular, and attractive, suburbs of Birmingham are probably Sutton Coldfield and Edgbaston.
Further out of the city, decent sized towns like Tamworth, Redditch and Leamington Spa are pleasant towns to live in, with good links both into Birmingham and out to the rest of the country.
7. The north-west – the “golden triangle”
Three towns in Cheshire – Prestbury, Alderley Edge and Wilmslow – form the three points of the “golden triangle”.
This pleasant countryside is highly popular with Premier League footballers and top-level entertainers.
The popularity means it can be overpriced, but also means good quality living, including many top range shops, restaurants and good schools in the area.
The communication links into Manchester are also excellent.
Finally, a bit of a wildcard that doesn’t always feature in UK property reviews.
Edinburgh offers capital city attractions, with property prices far lower than those in London. It’s also a coastal city with Portobello in the city itself and St Andrews (as in the golf course) and Eyemouth further along the coast.
You’ll need to wrap up in winter as the cold winds can whistle in off the North Sea, but the summer months are warm, the scenery is wonderful and Edinburgh itself is a thriving city with big financial sector.
Get in touch
We can’t help you decide where to live in the UK, but we can help you manage your finances between Hong Kong and the UK, so you’re all set up after your move.
Please contact us by email or, if you prefer to speak to us, you can reach us in the UK on +44 (0) 208 0044900 or in Hong Kong on +852 39039004.