After four-and-a-half years in Cambridge, I’ve moved to Oxford. Plus ca change, plus ca c’est la meme chose, perhaps – Oxford is like Cambridge but more so (no doubt some might say that one is a pale imitation of the other…) – the university is even older, even more full of bizaare jargon and traditions (Christ Church College keeps “old Oxford” solar time rather than the newfangled Greenwich time that was imposed on them by the coming of the railways), and the city is bigger, with broader streets.
I’m working for Sharp Laboratories of Europe,
a big box of boffins an R&D department out on the Science Park. (Is it me, or should the term Science Park refer to a lively outdoor space where children can play with particle accelerators? Sorry…)
Part of the package of benefits offered by the firm is relocation – a wodge of money designed to offset the cost of moving. HMRC very kindly allow you to take the first £8000 of relocation expenses tax-free, as long as you claim them before the end of the tax year after the one in which you take the job. This is slightly daft, because it means that if you join a company on April 7th (one day into the tax year) you have two years to claim your relocation allowance, whereas if you start your new job on April 5th, you have only one year. Anyway, my contract started at the end of February 2012, so I have until April 2013 to claim the money.
Knowing this, we cracked on with trying to buy a house in Oxford. As it happens, we found somewhere we like very quickly, and had an offer accepted. We were also very fortunate that the house in Cambridge sold very quickly. But it did surprise me how much everything costs – the stamp duty on the new house in Oxford exceeds the £8k relocation allowance all on its own! Even just taking the legal fees, removal costs and agent’s fees there’s barely going to be much change.
A few notes of warning: in the present financial climate, mortgage lenders are becoming ever more finicky about their terms and conditions. This makes relocation quite tricky. Some things to watch out for: most lenders will not lend to you during any “probationary period” in your contract – which may be as much as six months. If you haven’t had a steady job with the same employer for the past few years, they may ask to see copies of your previous contracts of employment. This can result in a hectic paperchase, further complicated by the fact that all of these documents have to be presented as originals, which means posting them. Don’t do as I did and accidentally send off a bunch of papers with insufficient postage (contracts are printed on thick paper, and are thus quite heavy…) only to have them impounded by the Royal Mail – it can take up to two weeks for them to be released from custody!
We’re currently waiting for the decision from the mortgage lender, the survey and then the final round of negotiating.