Choos­ing to live ‘off ’ the land

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Alder­ney has fi­nan­cial ad­van­tages – such as no VAT

Strolling along pow­der white sand warmed by the evening sun, John Hunt and part­ner Katie Ste­wart feel like they’re in par­adise. “It’s won­der­ful see­ing an un­ob­structed hori­zon,” en­thuses John. “Some­times we have to pinch our­selves to be­lieve we’ve ditched the rat race for this beau­ti­ful is­land.”

John, 45, and Katie, 47, grew tired of end­less com­mut­ing, clogged roads and the bus­tle of main­land liv­ing. In 2016, they swapped the south-west Lon­don sub­urb of Hamp­ton Hill for Alder­ney, the north­ern­most Chan­nel Is­land. Home is now min­utes from the beach, a four-bed­room de­tached house that cost £511,000. “It has dou­ble the floor space com­pared with the three­bed­room bun­ga­low we had on the main­land,” says Katie. “In Hamp­ton Hill, we’d have paid £1.5mil­lion.”

Although it of­ten lies in the shadow of big­ger brothers Jersey and Guernsey, Alder­ney has much to of­fer, in­clud­ing a land­scape of pris­tine golden beaches, rocky head­lands and tran­quil green spa­ces sprin­kled with wild flow­ers. It’s the ul­ti­mate es­cape from the stresses of the main­land.

Liv­ing on the is­land, which is part of the Baili­wick of Guernsey but is self­gov­erned, has fi­nan­cial ad­van­tages, too: no cap­i­tal trans­fer tax, no VAT, no in­her­i­tance tax for domi­ciled res­i­dents, and a 20 per cent top in­come tax rate (vis­i­talder­ney.com).

Alder­ney can be a sim­pler op­tion for some­one look­ing to buy in the Chan­nel Is­lands. While Guernsey op­er­ates a two-tier hous­ing mar­ket (only around 10 per cent of its stock is avail­able to non-is­lan­ders and is there­fore usu­ally more ex­pen­sive), and Jersey’s prop­erty mar­ket is even more com­plex, there are no bar­ri­ers to buy­ing prop­erty on Alder­ney – it’s as sim­ple as mov­ing from one UK county to an­other, with prices sim­i­lar to Eng­land’s south coast.

There are some dif­fer­ences though, warns An­drew Eg­gle­ston, the manag­ing direc­tor of Alder­ney es­tate agent Bell & Co (bel­land­coalder­ney. com). A 10 per cent de­posit is put down at ex­change, which goes to the seller if the pur­chaser re­neges. “Un­like the main­land, if the ven­dor pulls out, the de­posit is re­turned, plus a penalty pay­ment of a like sum.”

There are around 1,600 prop­er­ties on the is­land; as more than 80 per cent of Alder­ney is green belt, there are only a fi­nite num­ber of prop­er­ties and build­ing plots avail­able. Eg­gle­ston says he has be­tween 40 and 140 on the mar­ket at any one time, with prices start­ing at £95,000 and rang­ing from £300,000 to £550,000 for a fourbed­room house with a gar­den.

“Peo­ple who move here are those who sim­ply love the place – not be­cause their ac­coun­tant ad­vises them to do so for monetary gain,” he says. “It’s a class­less is­land. It doesn’t mat­ter what kind of home you’ve got or what car you drive; the one thing bond­ing us to­gether is that we all en­joy liv­ing here.”

Mea­sur­ing just three miles by one-and-a-half miles, you’re al­ways min­utes from the sea and spec­tac­u­lar views. With no ferry ser­vice be­tween the is­land and UK main­land, reach­ing

Alder­ney is a 30-minute flight from Southamp­ton. “When we lived in Hamp­ton Hill, I of­ten wasted four hours com­mut­ing each day,” says John. “Here, I’m much fur­ther away but can catch the early morn­ing flight, jump on a train and reach Lon­don by 10.30am.”

John trav­els to the main­land oc­ca­sion­ally to meet clients, but he and Katie run their man­age­ment con­sul­tancy busi­ness from home. “Broad­band speeds are up to 50mb, fast enough for video con­fer­enc­ing or FaceTime,” says John. “It’s be­com­ing in­creas­ingly dif­fi­cult to tear my­self away from Alder­ney; when­ever I’m away, I can’t wait to re­turn.”

Crime is vir­tu­ally non-ex­is­tent on Alder­ney and res­i­dents leave cars and houses un­locked. “That’s un­heard of back on the main­land,” says John. “It’s idyl­lic here and the cost of liv­ing is on a par with the main­land. OK, we might wait a cou­ple of months for the lat­est films to reach our cin­ema, but that’s a tiny in­con­ve­nience.”

There are count­less op­por­tu­ni­ties to move off the Bri­tish main­land in search of the is­land life­style. Like Alder­ney, the Isle of Man is a Crown De­pen­dency; not part of the UK or EU, it is self-gov­ern­ing ex­cept for mat­ters re­lat­ing to for­eign af­fairs and de­fence.

In the mid­dle of the Ir­ish Sea, 60 miles west of the Lan­cashire coast, this small is­land (32 miles by 13) has a pop­u­la­tion of around 85,000. Like most other is­lands, the re­laxed pace of life, low crime rate and strik­ing scenery at­tract tourists and those want­ing a more peace­ful life­style. Even the is­land’s na­tional an­them boasts it is the “Gem of God’s Earth”.

Be­hind its quiet at­mos­phere, how­ever, is a vi­brant econ­omy rated among the best in the world. Other at­trac­tive as­pects of liv­ing on the Isle of Man in­clude no cap­i­tal gains tax, no in­her­i­tance tax, no stamp duty and low in­come tax bands. But un­like many so-called tax havens around the world, which make it dif­fi­cult for any­one other than the su­per-rich to se­cure res­i­dency sta­tus, the Isle of Man wel­comes new­com­ers.

Fur­ther up the Scot­tish coast are the Outer He­brides; on Lewis and Har­ris, the most pop­u­lated of the is­lands, the av­er­age three-bed­room fam­ily home sells for £100,000 to £130,000. But it was the peace, more than the prices, that at­tracted Richard and Jayne Green, 59 and 60, to the Scot­tish ar­chi­pel­ago. In 2012, Richard, a re­tired sys­tems en­gi­neer, and Jayne, an ac­coun­tant, swapped North Devon for the Outer He­bridean is­land of Scal­pay, and they haven’t looked back.

“We wanted to get away from the fast pace of the main­land and the He­brides fit­ted the bill,” says Jayne, who now runs a craft busi­ness, Pink Sheep Stu­dio, with her hus­band. “It had al­ways been a life­long dream to change our life­style and build a new home – we’ve achieved that.”

“Scal­pay is re­mote enough to be pri­vate yet still ac­ces­si­ble to the main­land,” says Richard. “I flew up to see land we’d been mon­i­tor­ing on­line and fell in love with it im­me­di­ately, so I bought it on the spot for £27,000.” The Greens built a two-bed­room de­tached bun­ga­low for £123,000 and en­joy un­in­ter­rupted views across one of myr­iad lochs pep­per­ing this tiny is­land. They ad­mit is­land liv­ing has some dis­ad­van­tages but they’re out­weighed by nu­mer­ous ben­e­fits. “Yes, costs are a lit­tle higher be­cause ev­ery­thing has to be fer­ried in, there are min­i­mal work op­por­tu­ni­ties and se­ri­ous med­i­cal care means trips to a city,” says Jayne. “We don’t miss main­land liv­ing – we couldn’t cope with the traf­fic and so many peo­ple.”

At the other end of the UK, Jeff and Rachael Knowles, 63 and 45, con­cur with the Greens. They sold up in Mil­ton Ernest, near Bed­ford, in March and bought Carn­wethers, a guest­house with self-cater­ing cot­tages for £900,000 on St Mary’s in the Isles of Scilly. “We don’t miss any­thing other than fam­ily,” says Jeff. “As ev­ery­thing comes by boat, you have to plan well ahead in terms of what you need, but the su­perb beauty of the is­lands, the peace and quiet and slower pace of life are more im­por­tant.”

Although this life sounds idyl­lic, it’s not for ev­ery­one, ad­vises Bell & Co’s Eg­gle­ston. “Visit your cho­sen is­land on sev­eral oc­ca­sions, not just in sum­mer, and see how the is­land works; per­haps rent some­where for a few months be­fore mak­ing your fi­nal de­ci­sion.”

He is talk­ing from ex­pe­ri­ence, hav­ing lived on Alder­ney for 45 years. Daily frus­tra­tions can in­clude wait­ing longer for de­liv­er­ies if they miss the weekly cargo boat from Poole, pay­ing more for items in lo­cal in­de­pen­dent shops, or wak­ing up to fog when you’ve booked a flight back to the UK – on their an­nual trip to New Zealand, Eg­gle­ston and his wife leave Alder­ney two days in ad­vance to make sure they don’t miss their flight from Heathrow.

“Is­land life is cer­tainly not for ev­ery­one,” he says. “But if you love it, there is no bet­ter place to be.”

‘It’s a class­less is­land, it doesn’t mat­ter what car you drive’

Calm: five cot­tages on the Isle of Skye, above, are £1.25m via Knight Frank; a home in An­gle­sey, cover, is £1.75m at Jack­son-Stops & Staff; a home on the Isle of Ar­ran, main, listed with McEwan Fraser Le­gal; Katie and John, be­low, moved to Alder­ney,...

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