The rise of Monday-to-Friday London living: meet the 'weekly boarders' who rent in the city and go home to the country at weekends

Property prices are rising fast in the capital with families struggling to find a balance between work and home. In order to have the best of both worlds, 'weekly boarders' are renting in town during the week and heading home to the country at weekends.

Alastair Turner works in Shoreditch where his life is a frenetic round of meetings, pitches and after-work drinks. His wife, Anne-Marie, lives 130 miles away in Dorset with their three small children in a house in need of renovation.

This is how the huge cost of London housing has left many people. The Turners are typical of families striving to find a balance between work and home that results in a “split-screen” life. Anne-Marie and the children live in the family-size house they’d craved, while Alastair has become a “weekly boarder” in the capital, returning for three, sometimes four nights a week. 

Many of the friends the Turners have made since buying their Georgian farmhouse 18 months ago in Gillingham, near Sherborne, are in the same boat.

 

Spare Room says more than 6,500 people advertised on its website for a Monday-to-Friday London rental last year. Meanwhile, Monday to Friday rentals website was set up specifically to cater for those who only live in London on weekdays.

The Turners had a terrace house in Acton but with daughter Georgie, five, and three-year-old twin sons Archie and Charlie, they were desperate for more space. They also worried about the quality of the local schools.

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"We've had to man up": Alastair Turner, wife Anne-Marie and their children moved from Acton to Dorset in search of a bigger home and better schools


Anne-Marie says:“I cried all night after we left London, and I cried saying goodbye to our neighbours. We both loved London but it was the children.” 

The Turners bought their Acton home for £450,000 and extended it, then sold for a little over £1 million — just enough to buy and start renovating their new home; even a long-distance move doesn’t automatically mean you can afford a fabulous country pad and have a pile of cash to spare.

They chose far beyond the commuter belt. If they were going to leave London they wanted “real” countryside. “We wanted the children to be able to run around fields, and all of that,” says Alastair, chief executive of public relations firm Aspectus. 

Despite the tears they’ve had no regrets. Alastair says he has the “best of both worlds”, particularly as he can work from home one or two days a week. 

“I run a business based in Shoreditch, then at weekends I go to the English countryside. It is great. The summer’s coming, the kids are running out to meet me shouting, ‘Daddy! Daddy!’ I do get the best of it.” But what of Anne-Marie, alone looking after the children? “At first it was really hard,” she says. “Friends thought we were crazy, and it wasn’t that much fun initially. But now I’d recommend it to anyone.

“Life is much more relaxed in Dorset, we’ve met like-minded people and there’s plenty to get involved with. Our friends all come and stay weekends, and though it is hard being apart from Alastair we talk a lot and have a very strong relationship. We always said we would never live apart, that it was a recipe for disaster, but in a crazy way it has made things better because we appreciate our time together.”

The boys settled into their new routine instantly. Georgie, plunged into full-time school for the first time, was less sure but is now fully involved in country life. And Anne-Marie certainly isn’t bored or lonely. “I don’t have time to breathe, especially with house renovations. We are both working hard. Sometimes you just have to man up.”

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Living in Cheltenham: the mortgage on a family home was less than London rent


Moving to the Cotswolds

Mat Gazeley, 32, and his fiancée Fleur Vidler, 30, face spending the early years of their marriage, at least, living 100 miles apart.

Renting in Muswell Hill, they decided last summer to buy a family home in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, near Fleur’s family. As their £400,000 budget wouldn’t go far in London, they went for a five-bedroom Georgian townhouse in “the gateway to the Cotswolds”. The mortgage, at £1,200 a month, is less than their £1,500-a-month London rent.

Mat, who works for online lending company Zopa, now spends three nights in London, splitting his time between friends and a kind aunt and uncle with a spare room, and works from home on Fridays. Fleur, 30, runs upmarket children’s fashion label Belle Enfant from Cheltenham. 

Mat admits that the weekly separation is a “sacrifice”. He adds, however: “We have got into a routine, and it is not so bad.

“But I do think that what we have done is a bit of a trend. Lots of our friends are doing the same. 

“There comes a point when you need to stop renting in London and think about the future.”

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Goodbye London: Richard Samuels plans to live the weekly boarder lifestyle until he retires


Darlington dream

Richard Samuels has been living the weekly boarder lifestyle for five years. His wife Tara, 32, lives in Darlington, County Durham with their children Bronte, two, and Verity, eight months.

“We have decided this will be forever, until I retire,” says Richard, 34. As an account manager for a marketing tech company in London Bridge, he earns three times the £30,000 he’d get in the North-East.

The family can afford the mortgage on their four-bedroom Victorian semi, bought for £295,000, and cover the £500-a-month rent for a Monday-to-Friday room in a Crouch End flat. 

Richard tries to get three or four nights a week at home, then catches the 6.30am train to London on Mondays, keeping in touch with his young family via Skype. The couple chose Darlington for affordability and because Tara’s parents live nearby. 

Richard doesn’t feel he is missing out as his children grow up. He says a regular commuter is likely be leaving home before the children wake and getting back when they are asleep. “When you think what it costs to raise a family... it has to be a London salary or it just does not stack up for us.”

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