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Moving to Devon? 10 tips from a pro

Grass looking greener in Devon? Don't make a move until you've read our insider tips from the property pros on where's hot and how to make it work for you.

Living the Devon dream has never looked so appealing, with beaches, moors and tranquil woodlands on our doorstep, plus value for money if you know where to look.

When I moved here from the South East with my husband and toddler sixteen years ago, where to move was made easier by the fact he had family here. Even so, having since discovered so many gorgeous areas to live, I sometimes wish I’d known more about the county beforehand.

Looking to make the leap yourself? Ed Jephson of Stacks Property Finders to the rescue! He’s a dogged homes-hound with his finger on the pulse of what’s on the South Hams, Dartmoor and North Devon market (sometimes before it’s on the market) thanks to a bulging little black book of agents and insider know-how. What’s more, he knows what he’s talking about as he’s done it himself, with his wife and young daughter.

Over to you, Ed!

1/ Where’s the best place to start?

boy walking in mud gate woolly hat

I always ask loads of questions to find out what people want: will you need to find work here or will you be working from home? Do you want a good state school or are you going private? Is community key or do you see yourself being remote? Are you boaty or are family walks more your thing? Do you want a morning swim every day or will you be off on the commute?

Try and write down absolutely everything you want from your new life. That way you won’t waste time and are less at risk of falling in love with a property only to have to let it go because it doesn’t meet your needs.

Inside intel: consider not just what you need right now, but try and imagine how your life might be like in ten years’ time and bake that in.

2/ What impact has Covid had on the Devon house market?

The cat is out of the bag in terms of people now being able to work from home, whilst maintaining productivity. In some instances, productivity has even increased! So, if you don’t need to commute, why live in a polluted city where childcare is exorbitant and crime is high when you could live in open countryside or close to the sea? Childcare here is a fraction of what it costs in the big cities and believe it or not, there is always a fantastic hipster coffee house close by and the restaurant scene here rivals any big city. 

3/What’s the best location for commuters?

Anywhere around the A381, including Totnes, Ashburton (one of Muddy’s Best Places to Live in Devon) and towns and villages close to the A38 Devon Expressway which runs between Plymouth and Exeter.

South Devon is warmer and less battered by the storms rolling in across the Atlantic, making it a safe haven for sailors. The harbour towns, such as Salcombe, Dartmouth and Noss Mayo are some of the prettiest destinations on the planet, let alone the county. We’re are also keen on the hidden gem of Shaldon (only 15 mins by train to Exeter) with its close community and waterside location.

Inside intel: trains to London Paddington and Waterloo run half hourly and take just under three hours from Exeter St Davids.

4/What if it’s a toss-up between Cornwall or Devon?

exeter quayside warehouse buildings
Even in the city you can get on the water at Exeter Quay.

Because it’s so much further from city-life, a move to Cornwall is more like pulling up the drawbridge. You’re talking anything from 6-10 hours by car to London depending on the traffic or a flight from Newquay. Devon is do-able for a weekend. It also has two cosmopolitan cities of Exeter and Plymouth, the M5 and you can get to Bristol in an hour by train. Devon is less rugged but for my money, the villages are prettier and better put together (but don’t tell Cornwall I said that!)

Inside intel: think about who’s most regularly going to be making the trip. If you have kids of university age, Cornwall might mean they come home less while if you do a lot of entertaining, weekending guests may well want to stay longer. That might be a pro or a con, you decide!

5/Where do you recommend for young families?

Boats ahoy! Kingsbridge is a paddle-boarder’s dream.

Kingsbridge has a year-round community and it’s upmarket without being snooty (though *eek* it doesn’t have a Waitrose!) There are loads of good indie shops in the town and a really good state school, Kingsbridge Community College. (The town was also Devon’s winner in Muddy’s Top 200 Best Places to Live.)

Totnes High Street is chocka of indie shops and cool coffee houses.

Totnes and the surrounding villages, including East Allington, Harbertonford, Blackawton and Cornworthy are all young and happening, plus there are some good pubs and eateries, including the Maltsters Arms at Tuckenhay and Sharpham Dairy which is a beautiful place for a walk, right on the edge of the River Dart.

Totnes always reminds us of walking down Portobello Road, with its coffee houses and indie shops, it’s so pretty and higgledy-piggledy. There’s a refreshing lack of materialism too, it’s not flash.

If you want to be on the moors, the year-round community of Ashburton, a gateway to the moors, Tavistock with its period architecture or Moretonhampstead (above) is a bustling little town just within the Dartmoor national park and only 15 miles from Exeter. Being so close to the city makes it stand out as one of the key Dartmoor locations, plus NT Castle Drogo is six miles away and its Green Hill Arts Gallery is fast becoming one of Devon’s most prominent art galleries. There are a couple of coffee shops, three pubs, a bakery and stores. It seems to attract arty cultured types.

Insider intel: if it’s a question of weather, the moors are colder and tend to get snow more often than areas by the coast.

6/How much to be beside the seaside?

Always good for a sea swim: the village of Hope Cove.

If you want a stand-alone property with parking in the South Hams, you won’t get much change out of £2million for a panoramic sea view, although if you don’t mind compromising on space, a semi-detached or terrace with a view will set you back anything from £650k.

Fancy the Dittisham lifestyle? Er, yeeeeees!

Estuary views are sought after too: in Dittisham, for example you can expect to pay around the £900k mark for a detached property with a garden.

Local intel: look for somewhere either with parking or a property that comes with a pass for the local car park as during the tourist months it’s always a competition to find a space.

7/Where is the best value for money?

Purchase a property in a hamlet just 10 to 15 minutes away from the sea and it will shave hundreds of thousands off the price, and you still have it all on your doorstep, and it will be less touristy in summer. So a win-win.

If you don’t mind remote, Bantham, Start Point and East Prawle is unspoilt and a little cheaper than Salcombe and Dartmouth.

Local intel: lanes are narrow and often only wide enough for single-traffic in rural areas, very stressful if you’re stuck behind a tractor or caravan and you’re commuting daily for work.

8/What makes a good holiday home?

Enough bathrooms or en-suites is key if you want to attract an upmarket holiday crowd. If you’re doing the laundry, a decent-sized laundry as you will need two of each, washing machine and dryer, to do the turnaround, unless it’s a cute one-bed cottage. A boot room and a downstairs shower room where people can get out of wetsuits helps to keep sand confined to one room. A good garden but not too big if you’re doing the maintenance! Parking is always essential in busy coastal towns where it’s hard to find.

Local intel: most holiday makers want to be within walking distance of a pub and at least one shop for essentials.

9/Should I be worried about being seen as an incomer?

It’s not something we experienced when we moved from London, it was the opposite with people putting nice notes through the letterbox. Maybe if you moved to a very tight-knit community where houses rarely come up. It helps if you have children as you tend to meet like-minded parents through nursery and school.

From our own experience we would say the South Hams is particularly cosmopolitan and attracts the worldly kind of crowd. Devon is a friendly county that welcomes and actively embraces outsiders.   

10/Should I rent first?

The housing market here has been sky-rocketing since Covid hit so if you rent you are not only spending £20k or so on a year’s rent but you may also be pricing yourself out by waiting. The other factor is that if you are looking in the South Hams area, its impossible to find anything as they are rented out as holiday lets and cost four times as much.  

But for some people it will still make sense to find something to rent, particularly if you want to try out the area and decide to retain your own home, until you are completely satisfied to sell up and re invest down here.   

However, for most people I would always recommend buying and selling in the same market at the same time. Plus, moving twice and living out of storage boxes is exhausting!

A search agent takes away that worry for you, along with endless trawling on the internet, wondering if an area is nice, or if the schools are good. I do all the viewings for clients, and I can video properties, so you only need to come and view a property when you’re sure all the boxes are ticked and it’s the right location for your lifestyle.

Local intel: renting may be less useful if you have kids of school age as it’s unlikely you will want to move them out of the catchment area once they’ve settled in.

Got a burning question for Ed we haven’t asked? Find out more about Buying your dream home in Devon, then get in touch! He’s a genuinely lovely guy, so don’t be shy…

Call 01803 732128 / 07711 724939 or email edjephson@stacks.co.uk at Stacks Property Finders.

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17 comments on “Moving to Devon? 10 tips from a pro”

  • Susan June 23, 2022

    My husband and I love the south hams and in the process of downsizing from the midlands would love to re-locate to the south hams particularly strete area . We are 56 and 62 respectively but just wondering whether we have left it too late. We have a young outlook and quite fit. We have three daughters one in London . One who lives locally just about to get married and a 23 year old looking for work. My one daughter who lives in Worcester not keen on us going so difficult decision to make.

    Reply
  • Lee Ann June 21, 2022

    Ed and Grace helped us find our wonderful house in Dittisham . Love it here . One small point Sharpham Vineyards have moved across the river and renamed Sandbridge Barton although I believe the wines still use the Sharpham label .

    Reply
    • lisabuckland June 29, 2022

      Good point, Lee, yes they’ve moved down the river to Sandridge Barton near Stoke Gabriel. I’ve changed it to mention Sharpham Cheese who still do turn and tastings there.

      Reply
  • hutchess March 11, 2022

    Thanks for all your helpful advice Lisa and Ed, this is a really great article!

    My husband and I looking to move to the South Hams area and we have a trade business (already checked and there is plenty of work for his particular trade). I have been warned about the terrible tourist traffic in the summer. I have night sweats thinking that it’s going to be constant caravans and gridlock, and my husband just won’t be able to get around to all his customers and it will stress him out. Also, we love kayaking, but will we ever be able to get to the beaches in the summer? Is it really that bad or am I over-worrying? Thanks again x

    Reply
    • lisabuckland March 14, 2022

      Morning Dawn. congrats on moving to such a beautiful part of the world. I live in quite a touristy area (not South Hams sadly!) and my view is that the locals know the back routes and the times/places to avoid, so I’m sure you’ll work it out once you’re here. Ditto for beaches, everyone has their fave, secret spots! Good luck with the move and enjoy! Lisa x

      Reply
  • SUNDIP PATEL September 26, 2021

    Hi – I’m planning to move out of London after my divorce and just found a new girlfriend. Well i plan to settle in Either Torquay or Dartmouth. I had been once to Torquay when I could not find a hotel near South East beach areas so the travel agent gave me a booking in Torquay. After alot of search for business projects, I found Torquay and Dartmouth quite comfortable to live and start any kind of trading or wholesale or online store with a comfortable business place to work and employ people to work. Thus this creates employment and comfort of living. The sea view homes are the best with price of between 1-5 million to 2-5 Million with car park, garden, pool, cinema room, the works.

    Reply
  • Charlie Hill July 24, 2021

    I’m relocating from Hampshire to work in Dartmouth. As a divorced 50’ish woman with a dog and no other family, I want to live in a house with garden in a commutable village where I can develop a social life (and hopefully a new partner)! Any recommendations? Thanks!

    Reply
  • Claire June 23, 2021

    Hi we are going to be moving from Bucks. to Devon my husband has a new job starting in Plymouth, love Kingsbridge but would like to be a bit nearer Exeter – could you recommend some towns/villages to try?

    Reply
    • lisabuckland June 24, 2021

      Hi Claire, Ed may have good suggestions but I’d recommend you check out lovely Topsham, Kenton, Kenn/Kennford for starters – all have lovely communities and Topsham has far too many tempting shops and eateries x

      Reply
  • Lynda Pewter June 18, 2021

    My husband and I are thinking of moving to Kingsbridge but would like to know about the public transport to surrounding areas and whether there is a train station. We are worried about being too isolatef

    Reply
  • Matt May 28, 2021

    Looking to move from Essex to south Devon. Me and my partner love it down there. I was surprised how much cheaper properties are down that way. We are first time buyers any tips?

    Reply
  • Alex Marchais May 5, 2021

    Hello, also considering making the big move from Surrey to North Devon, around Barnstaple. We have 3 kids (7, 5 and 2) and would love to have some guidance if possible (best location for schools, location,…). Thanks a lot!

    Reply
  • Maria Piskorikova March 25, 2021

    We would like to move to Devon from South London , our house going on the market next week ,just wondering where to go , we have 2 years old son and elderly mother and thinking about Kingsbridge, I just read your article and now I am much happier about our choice, we love Devon , just we been here in London whole our lives , little bit scared we are but very happy too especially for little one 🙂

    Reply
    • lisabuckland March 25, 2021

      Hi Maria, oooh how exciting. Wishing you loads of luck with the move – and BTW you’ve got great taste! Kingsbridge just won our Best Places to Live in Devon. x

      Reply
  • Ed March 9, 2021

    Hi Jayne,
    Indeed. We loved Kensal Rise but love Devon even more! We do also cover North Devon too by the way, so do feel free to get in touch. Ed at Stacks

    Reply
  • Jayne Griffiths January 8, 2021

    How funny here I m sitting in a two bedroom flat in Kensal Rise considering Devon (probably more North around Woolacombe) an came across your article!

    Reply
    • lisabuckland January 26, 2021

      Serendipity! Good luck with the move…

      Reply

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