A lot of young professionals face this dilemma, new parents in particular. You like living in the bustling metropolis where it’s all happening.
You want to feel like you’re in the mix, you’re where it’s at, you’ve still got it. Sure, if you’ve got kids you rarely get to go out anymore to take advantage of all this culture and nightlife – but still, it’s nice to have the option, amiright? The city is the place to be. Or at least it used to be.
In recent years, most of your friends have moved that bit further out to get more for their money, more space for the free-range kids, a garden, better schools, o -street parking, somewhere to put their record collection that isn’t the loft. And so, when you’ve stopped swearing after treading barefoot on a Peppa Pig gure, you look at your screaming toddler, who is creatively daubing the walls with yoghurt and Crayola, and say to your wife: ‘Y’know, maybe we should move out, too.’
But then, for those of us who have to work in the city, there’s the commute. How do people do the standing-on-a-packed-train schlepp for several precious hours each morning and evening? And the rail season ticket is more expensive than a corporate box at the Emirates. Herein lies the dilemma.
‘New York, I love you, but you’re bringing me and my credit rating down’
My family – me, my wife, our twin toddlers, and a little dog – currently live in a small two-bedroom apartment in Brooklyn that is getting smaller by the day as a fantasia of Amazon boxes full of kid-stu arrives with seemingly unstoppable frequency. We’re climbing the walls as they inexorably close in. It’s stu ocating.
It’s also eye-wateringly expensive. My rent literally makes me want to cry. We have date night every Thursday but we can’t really a ord to go out more regularly. Are we getting value for money? New York, I love you, but you’re bringing me and my credit rating down.
But. It’s just 20 minutes to my o ce on Fifth Avenue. We’re right in the heart of newly gentri ed Williamsburg, which is so achingly hip it’s practically arthritic. We’ve got everything we need on our doorstep. Well, apart from storage space, a community, parks, good schools, clean air, room to swing a bloody cat. Unless you’re properly loaded (which we’re not), New York is tough work for families. Ditto London.
The rate of people moving out of London is more than 80 per cent higher than ve years ago, according to estate agent Savills, with people in their 30s the age group most likely to leave. Rightmove says the average monthly rent in London is £1,920, compared to £789 nationally. At £482,000, average London house prices remain more than double those in the rest of the UK – £223,000.
Like so many people at our age and stage, we’ve been having the same interminable conversation on loop. Is it time to move out? And if so, where? I feel somewhat peer-pressured by that insidious Dr Samuel Johnson quote: ‘Sir, when a man is tired of London, he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can a ord.’ I’m not tired of the Big Smoke, I’m just tired. And I can’t a ord it. But is moving out an admission of defeat or the much-delayed start of acting like a grown-up? Like my temples, it’s a grey area.
Anyway, while we were discussing this, a job opportunity suddenly presented itself in Portland, a small and eminently more a ordable city. The monthly mortgage repayments on a central four-bedroom house with a garden are less than half what we’re paying to rent our two-bedder in Brooklyn. It’s a game-changer for our family.
When I handed in my resignation, my current boss was very understanding. ‘Listen, I get it,’ he said. ‘I commute three hours a day. Work-life balance is everything.’
So Portland: here we come. It was a tough decision but it feels like the right one. Please let it be the right one. And you can shut up, Dr Johnson.
Dan Rookwood is former US editor of Mr Porter