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Did you know that nationally one in four families move home to secure a school place?

With this year’s National Allocation Day for secondary school only a couple of weeks away, we know that in Hertfordshire, one of the big reasons for families moving is to be in a good catchment area for schools.

There were just over 1400 applications for a secondary school place in St Albans last year and just over 1000 applications for a secondary school place from Hemel Hempstead and villages, and places at the best local schools, especially the selective schools are often hotly contested.

So if you are moving home, how can you ensure that your move increases the likelihood of getting a place at the school of your choice?

Well, whilst no home move can ever 100% guarantee a school place, here are some tips to help increase your chances.

1. Research School  Admissions Criteria

The biggest tip we can give you is to do your homework on the local schools you are interested in and read their admissions criteria so that you understand how places are allocated.

Most schools in Hertfordshire will firstly give priority to children who have been the public care system at any point of their lives and children with a particular medical or social need (i.e. with a medical condition or an EHCP) before other pupils, often regardless of home address.

After these admission rules then typically priority is given to children who have a current (and in some cases past) sibling at the school again, often regardless of home address. Some schools will also include children of staff in this rule.  Typically this will account for one-third to half of all places allocated.

After this then some schools may consider religious affiliation as a priority rule, or academic, musical or sporting ability. These rules are often also distance based, so a child may have to meet the criteria and then places will be allocated on a distance basis. Some selective schools in Hertfordshire will use these indicators as a basis for admissions.

Most non-selective Herts schools will include a priority catchment area and will admit children to the school in order of distance within the priority area only. Some (such as STAGs and Verulam) will offer a random allocation within the priority area.

Finally, places will then be allocated to children on a distance basis outside of the priority catchment area. Many of the St Albans schools and some of the Hemel schools will have fulfilled their places before ever getting down to this rule so if you are hoping for a place but live outside of the priority area then depending on the school it may be unlikely that they will offer a space to you.

See… simple! Or, maybe not so simple! Trying to work out which rules your child would be eligible under for each school can be an even bigger headache than contemplating moving home!

2. Research Nearest School & Priority Area Schools using the Herts Admissions Website.

Before agreeing to a purchase or rental, it’s important to understand what schools you would be eligible for based on location and distance to the school, so we would definitely recommend using the postcode checker to do your homework on the likelihood of getting a school place from your new property based on the “nearest school” and “priority area” rules.

Your nearest school is the school that a child is most likely to get into depending on their address. Note that the “nearest school” physically may not be your allocated nearest school as they may have special admissions criteria or be in a different local authority. “Priority Areas” are the schools which will consider applications from certain areas, so they are schools that a child at that address would have the best chance of getting a place at. Being in a priority area doesn’t guarantee a place as some priority areas include the whole of south-west Herts such as Parmiters School in Watford which takes pupils from Watford, St Albans and Hemel Hempstead postcodes.

In Herts you can input in the property postcode to find your nearest school and priority area schools on the Herts Website here. 

3) Look at previous statistics

Although never fool proof, previous years statistics can give you an indication of where you need to be living to be allocated a school place based on distance, so researching these figures can help you to decide where to buy/rent. The statistics are available from the Herts Website.

 Here are last year’s statistics for St Albans and Hemel based on distance only. These are subject to change year-on-year.  You can see that Beaumont and Sandringham have extremely small catchment areas in St Albans whilst Hemel School catchment is pretty much confined to the HP1 postcode.


Figures from Continuing Interest Round Two - Maximum Distances admitted:

St Albans Schools


Maximum Distance Admitted






1181.47 metres



985.19 metres



2236 metres in priority area

Plus random in-area allocations


2236 metres in priority area

Plus random in-area allocations

Samuel Ryder

4303.25 metres in Priority Area

2776.76 metres outside priority area



Took children who were not allocated a school which might indicate it was not oversubscribed.



Not Reported



Not Reported


Nicholas Breakspear

Not Reported



Hemel Hempstead Area


Maximum Distance Admitted

Hemel Hempstead School

1454.4 metres

Adeyfield School

7212.65 metres

Longdean School

6970.67 metres

Astley Cooper School

28,453.31 metres

Cavendish School

13,006.40 metres

JFK Catholic School

Not Reported

Ashlyns School

8299.99 metres

Kings Langley School

5347,52, in priority area and nearest school

3567.75 in priority area.

4. Work out what’s most important and be willing to compromise.

Homes in good priority school catchment areas are notoriously more expensive than those that aren’t so it’s important to take this into consideration when buying or renting a new home. It’s essential to work out what your budget is and to be realistic about what you can achieve for your budget in the areas you want to live. Also consider what you are willing and not willing to compromise on for your budget. If you really want to live a stones-throw from the best schools then you may find that you have to compromise on features such as that extra bedroom, utility room, large garden, or even off-street parking, so really give some thought as to what is more important... having to pay for permit parking, live in a smaller property, or being able to see the school from the front door. 

5.  5. Ask us for Help!

Once you’ve worked out what schools you are interested in and the areas where you have the best chance of securing a place, it’s time to start your property search and here’s where we can help! Scanning property sites such as Rightmove may or may not bring up the home you are looking for within the right budget and within the right catchment area.

However, we can help you to find a home in your desired area. We know the most popular areas for schools and so we regularly seek out homes in the Beaumont and Sandringham catchment areas in St Albans and in Boxmoor in Hemel as well as in other popular areas for schools locally.

We can keep our ear to the ground for properties becoming available in that area, or approach homeowners who may be considering selling or renting their homes and give you priority on viewing these properties so that you get in there first.

Similarly, if you own a property in a priority catchment area, we can help you market it to interested parties to ensure you get the best sale price or rental return possible as we know how valuable a school-catchment property can be!

So there are our five top tip for what to consider when moving home if you are intending on applying for a secondary school place in St Albans or Hemel Hempstead.

It’s important to remember that moving into a catchment area or within a certain distance of a school doesn’t guarantee a school place but hopefully these tips can help you to plan your move a little more wisely and will help you understand what to think about when considering moving for school applications.

We are always happy to chat with people over the phone or in-person to try and help them plan their next move, whatever the reason, so please feel free to get in touch or pop into the office for a no-obligation chat!   


Today we are discussing how Airbnb can work as an alternative to renting out your home via the traditional methods.

So why would you consider making an income on your property via Airbnb in St Albans or Hemel Hempstead rather than simply renting to a long-term tenant?

Well if you have a second property which you don’t live in, or perhaps live in your home but work away frequently leaving your property empty for periods of time then Airbnb could be for you!

Although renting to one tenant can provide a stable monthly income, you may find that you can make a higher return on your property by renting it out by the night – especially locally where people need a place to stay short-term because they are visiting the area, working away from home themselves or may even be having their own home renovated and in need of a temporary home until works are complete.

But we hear you say, I don’t want to be dealing with the hassle of Airbnb… I’m a busy person!

Well at Aubrey and Finn we offer an Airbnb Management solution which takes the stress out of renting out your home in this way. Our current Airbnb clients tell us that the Airbnb management service works really well and we are currently the only locally based Estate Agent with a physical office offering Airbnb Management options.

We make it so easy for our clients to Airbnb their property.

We advertise and market the property for you and deal with all of the bookings and enquiries.

We then handle check-ins and check-outs and we are available during the clients stay to answer any queries or deal with any issues they may have.

After the stay, we will clean the property and turn around the bedding etc.

We then send you email updates telling you how much you have earnt for each stay.

All you have to do is give us the keys and tell us when the property is available!

If you are someone who works away frequently it may be that you have contemplated renting your accommodation out before, but perhaps you are only at home on weekends, or maybe you are away weekends, and you can’t see how it could work for you. Well we can help! 

If you are still living in the property then we can liaise with you to ensure your home is always free for when you want to use it. 

Airbnb Management through Aubrey and Finn works really well for those not living in their property either because it’s a second home, their work takes them out of the area some nights a month, they want to go travelling or maybe they want to move elsewhere but not sell their current home.

For further information on our Airbnb offerings visit our website

We’d love to chat further to you if you think Airbnb might be a good option, or indeed if you are looking for an Airbnb property to stay at in the local area!


We love property of all types, which is probably why we’re in the business of selling and lettings!

We love homes surrounded by daffodils in the spring, bathed in sunlight in the summer, and dwarfed by falling leaves in the autumn.

However… add a sprinkle of snow or some twinkly lights and under the cover of winter’s cold darkness, we think homes during the Christmas season may just be our favourite!

With a seasonal makeover, even the drabbest houses can be transformed into a festive wonderland when adorned with a gorgeous wreath on the door, beautifully lit tree in the window or of course some sparkling Christmas lights covering the home and maybe even the odd Santa, reindeer or snowman peeping out of the garden.

This year there are many properties across St Albans and Hemel Hempstead lighting up the dark nights with the odd set of rope lights to be found in bushes or across the roof. However, there are also those going above and beyond for the Christmas light cause either because they love Christmas or in the name of Charity, who decorate their house with the intention of sharing their offerings with the rest of their community.

So here at Aubrey and Finn we’ve done the hard work for you and here’s where you can find some of the best dazzling Christmas light displays to be found in and around the St Albans and Hemel Hempstead areas.

All you have to do now for the perfect Christmas Light Adventure is wrap the family up warm, pack them into the car with a blanket, flask of hot chocolate and some delicious snacks and take a drive around and enjoy these amazing festive offerings, and perhaps also donate to those raising money for some fantastic local charities!

Homes with Christmas Light Displays in the St Albans Area:

Beech Road, St Albans 
Arguably the most popular Christmas display in St Albans has to be half way down Beech Road, near the Ancient Briton, a display which has been running for the past twenty two years. As in recent years, the family are
collecting for Mount Vernon Marie Curie Research Wing 

Prospect Road, St Albans

Residents in Prospect Road, situated close to the Abbey Flyer ad Westminster Lodge are creating a Living Advent Calendar this year, raising money for local charity Centre 33. Take a look at their Facebook page for more information.

Best On-Foot Christmas Light Walk

Local to our offices, just off Victoria Street, and one definitely easiest on-foot is a square-walk around Alexandra Road, Inkerman Road, Alma road, Bedford Road. We’re reliably informed there are lots of fantastic displays to be found in these four roads!

Other notable displays worthy of a visit include:

  • Ladysmith Road, Folly Avenue, Kimberley Road and Cannon Street, Townsend area. Carols and mince pies, mulled wine and walk around on the 19th December in aid of Keech and GOSH.
  • St Albans Town Centre – Display by St Albans Council
  • Holyrood Crescent, Cotton Mill Estate, St Albans
  • Heath Mini Roundabout
  • Sandpit Lane, near the Crossroads
  • St Leonards Close, Sandridge
  • Old London Road, off London Road St Albans
  • Cumberland House, Redbourn
  • Trowley Bottom, Flamstead

Hemel Hempstead

Wheelers Lane, near the Snow Centre

Collecting for Mount Vernon Hospital, the residents of this home have gone all out with a path you can walk down to collect a free sweet treat and leave your donation for charity!

Blair Close, Woodhall Farm 

Collecting for Rennie Grove Hospice Care, the Pulis family have made a huge effort again this year with their Christmas extravaganza on from 5pm until 9pm each day. You can find a homemade nativity scene, play Mobil and a large Lego display and even a Christmas quiz for the children! A donations box will also be available for Rennie Grove.  

Tile Kiln Lane, Leverstock Green

Flashing lights, Santa’s and Christmas Trees adorn this home which is collecting in aid of Team Macy

Other notable festive Christmas lights also definitely worth a visit include:

  •  Homefield Road, Adeyfield  - collecting for Great Ormond Street
  •  Great Elms Road, Bennetts End – collecting for Macmillan
  • The Fairway, Abbots Langley – collecting for Watford Mencap and Alzheimer's UK.
  • Hemel Town Centre and Old Town  - displays by Dacorum Borough Council
  • Fletcher Way, Highfield
  • Six Acres Bennetts End
  • Bluebell Drive, Bedmond

So there you have it! Some fantastic local residents decorating their homes for others to enjoy! If we’ve missed any notable displays off the list then please do let us know and we’ll add them in!

We’d love to see pictures of your homes all lit up for Christmas too, especially if we’ve helped you buy, sell or rent your home this year.

We hope that you have a very wonderful Christmas and New Year. Please do feel free to get in touch with us in the New Year for a no obligation valuation if you are considering selling or letting your home or an additional property in 2018!

Call our St Albans office on 01727 221290 or our Hemel office on 01442 23040. 

Photo Credit: Beech Road, St Albans - Stephanie Mansell 


Preparing your property for sale or rental can be an overwhelming process, especially if it is a property you are particularly attached to. There’s so much more to selling or letting your home than simply placing it on the market with an agent. It pays to do some preparation work beforehand to increase the chances of success, particularly if you are selling or renting in a competitive area like St Albans and Hemel Hempstead. Selling or letting within a satisfactory time period and attaining the price you want is much more likely to happen if you have spent some time doing the groundwork before your property goes to market.

So here are some top tips that we at Aubrey and Finn estate agents would suggest for those looking to place their property on the market.

1.    Do your research

Talk to an estate agent or research local property prices online to get a realistic idea of what properties are selling or renting for in the local area. This will give you a good indication of what your property is likely to achieve. This research may also help decide whether it could be worth spending extra time and money undertaking building work or renovations in order to gain a higher sum for your property. We are always happy to advise you on the local property market and whether we think renovations could add value to your home.

2.    Create a great first impression

You’ve heard of that buzz phrase “curb appeal” right? Spending a bit of time, money and effort making the exterior of your property look attractive and welcoming before placing it to market could be the difference between making a sale or gaining a new tenant and having a tumbleweed blowing through your property listing.

A great first impression is really important and as the exterior of the home is the first thing a prospective buyer or tenant will see in photos and upon arrival, it’s important that it is appealing and entices the viewer to want to look inside.

Pay someone, or spend some time yourself making gardens and lawns look tidy, sweeping up leaves, cleaning the cobwebs, washing windows and clearing up the exterior of the property. Perhaps even stretch to giving the exterior a new lick of paint! Greenery can also help make a home look inviting so investing in a few planters or a hanging basket outside the front door to cheer the place up can really help.

3.    Smarten up the Interiors

Before putting your property to market, decide whether a quick lick of neutral-coloured paint could help in any of the rooms. Perhaps ask a friend or relative to cast a critical eye over your current décor. If that bright red lounge accent wall or purple coloured bedroom is a cause for concern to them, then a bit of money or time spent repainting to a more neutral tone can help to add value and sell the property more quickly

4.    Clear the Decks

It pays to remember that you are selling your property, and the lifestyle that comes with it, not your furniture and contents, so try to put yourself in the prospective purchaser or tenant’s shoes.

A couple of things which can help are firstly to depersonalise by removing any photos, kids paintings, your football memorabilia collection or anything which marks the house as “your” territory. Secondly to declutter… putting books, toys, clothes or anything which drowns the character of the home into storage helps you to get a head start on the packing and can alos make the rooms seem bigger and more appealing which helps the prospective buyer or tenant to imagine the space as their own.   

5.    Spick and Span…

Once the décor is up to scratch and the clutter has been cleared, now the cleaning begins! A clean home is much more likely to attract a quick sale or let than a home full of dust, grease and dirt.  If the prospect of cleaning your home to extremes is too much to bear then perhaps invest in a cleaning company to come and do a preliminary “deep clean” for you which you then just have to maintain whilst the property is being marketed. Alternatively, stock up on the bleach, polish and black bin liners and clean the house yourself.  Tip – prospective buyers and tenants will be looking in cupboards, ovens and behind the shower curtain so make sure that you clean all areas of the home which they can access!

6.    Pets… What Pets?

Fido the dog, Fifi the cat or Frank the friendly house rabbit may mean the absolute world to you but (shock horror) not everyone may feel the same way you do about your special pet. Knowing that pets live in a property can be very off-putting to a prospective buyer or tenant. If possible, try to remove any excess pet-hair from carpet and furniture before viewings start and when you have viewings, place animal bedding and toys in cupboards and clear pet food bowls away so that the smell of the food is not lingering. If you can, arrange for your pets (especially dogs) to not be present during viewings so that the visitor does not have to contend with an over excited dog bounding at them when they walk through the door.

7.    When is a room not a room?

Prepare rooms for the purpose they are it most likely to be used for and don’t let your estate agent be grandiose when describing the purpose of a space as the viewer will see right through it. We’ve seen corridors marketed as “study” rooms, shower rooms called “utility rooms” and that all elusive “4th bedroom” which actually doubles as the dining room. Make it easy for the viewer to see what the purpose of each room it and don’t call rooms by names such as “the playroom/office/visitors bedroom”. Make sure they can envision what they would use the room for.

8.    Swot up on local info

A prospective purchaser or renter may have 101 questions they want to ask so being ready with the answers can help to warm them up to the property. Giving info on local schools, rubbish disposal, parking arrangements, council tax prices, average energy spend, local crime rates, nearest place for a loaf of bread or takeaway etc. may mean that you are giving them all the info they need to make a decision to purchase.

9.    Those finishing touches

Once the bigger jobs have been handled in preparation for your property to be marketed, don’t forget the finishing touches. Cut flowers on the table, the smell of fresh bread or coffee in the kitchen, a planter pot by the door, a lit fire, a scented candle or reed diffuser – all clichés, but all great ways to make your home appear warm and inviting.

10.  Choose your team wisely

We think that one of the most important tips we can give you is to ensure that you have the right people in your corner once your property is ready to go to market. Always ask for a recommendation of which estate agents others have had a great experience with when selling or letting their property and do your homework. Research which agents have the best reviews - it’s not always the leading market names which give the best customer experience!

Choose three estate agents and set up a valuation with them. Be aware of how easy it is to make an appointment for a valuation from the get go and how the initial conversations are handled as this may indicate the type of service you are likely to receive throughout the sales or lettings process. Also notice who they send around to carry out the valuation and during the valuation ask what commission structures they offer and who will be carrying out viewings (especially during evenings and weekends).

The best advice we can give is to trust your instincts and appoint the agent who you feel will be the most suited to your needs. This may not always be the one who is promising you the most money!

We hope you found these tips helpful. If you are considering selling or renting, or even air bnb-ing your property in the St Albans or Hemel Hempstead area then we would love to chat to you about how we can help!

Get in touch with us today on 01727 221290 or 01442 230400