How to make all your financial worries disappear in one simple move

Sell your overpriced London property, buy a country house and pocket the difference.

I'm rather longingly reading through Knight Frank's London vs Country brochure for this spring. It makes the point that we have been trying to make for the last year or so that the gap between country house prices and London house prices has almost never been wider. So if you are going to move you are unlikely to find a better time to make the trade.

Some numbers. Average prices for good homes in London are up 24% on their pre-crisis peak. Those in the country are still down on average some 20%. Since 2009, things are even more stark the average prime central London price is up 57%, but prices elsewhere have barely budged.

Knight Frank has rather brilliantly illustrated this by looking at what might have happened to the price of a £1m house in London, and then at what might have happened to those in various parts of the country.

Subscribe to MoneyWeek

Subscribe to MoneyWeek today and get your first six magazine issues absolutely FREE

Get 6 issues free

Sign up to Money Morning

Don't miss the latest investment and personal finances news, market analysis, plus money-saving tips with our free twice-daily newsletter

Don't miss the latest investment and personal finances news, market analysis, plus money-saving tips with our free twice-daily newsletter

Sign up

A £1m house in London in 2009 should now be worth £1.57m. But a £1m house in the north east will now be worth only £909,000. That's a difference of £661,000. So you can sell what was a million pound house and buy what was a million pound house but still have £600,000 in the bank enough to fill most pensions and pay most families school fees.

You can do the same sum in most places (Herefordshire offers particularly good relative value) and get a similar answer, with the gap only really narrowing in the south east, where the difference in today's values falls to a mere £425,500.

Not everyone can leave London and if both members of a couple have to commute in, the higher transport costs can fast outweigh the lower property costs. But if you can, and want to, the numbers are surely telling you now is a good time. More on this from my colleague Matthew here.

Merryn Somerset Webb

Merryn Somerset Webb started her career in Tokyo at public broadcaster NHK before becoming a Japanese equity broker at what was then Warburgs. She went on to work at SBC and UBS without moving from her desk in Kamiyacho (it was the age of mergers).

After five years in Japan she returned to work in the UK at Paribas. This soon became BNP Paribas. Again, no desk move was required. On leaving the City, Merryn helped The Week magazine with its City pages before becoming the launch editor of MoneyWeek in 2000 and taking on columns first in the Sunday Times and then in 2009 in the Financial Times

Twenty years on, MoneyWeek is the best-selling financial magazine in the UK. Merryn was its Editor in Chief until 2022. She is now a senior columnist at Bloomberg and host of the Merryn Talks Money podcast -  but still writes for Moneyweek monthly. 

Merryn is also is a non executive director of two investment trusts – BlackRock Throgmorton, and the Murray Income Investment Trust.