An hour from London

The growth spots.

Value for money, space and quality of life are among the most commonly cited reasons families leave London. With more buyers moving out of the capital – 42% last year compared with 33% in 2013, we look at some of the most attractive areas for those who need to remain within commuting distance.

 

Seeking value

The hard factors contributing to many moves are clear – a historically low Bank of England base rate, subsequently low mortgage rates and rising inflation. Consequently, some London households are taking advantage of relatively cheap mortgage lending to maximise square footage while they can. Others are no doubt simply looking to reduce their monthly outgoings in response to higher living costs with inflation reaching a six year high.

 

Proximity to London

Most areas closer to the Greater London boundary come with higher house prices, but buyers eager to keep their commute to a minimum might be pleasantly surprised to discover price growth nearer the capital was slower last year than further afield. Average prices with less than a 45-minute commute into zone 1 rose just 4% in the last 12 months, whereas prices with a travel time of more than an hour rose 7%.

But the average cost of a home is still significantly less the further from the capital you move. The average price of a four-bedroom home 25 miles from zone one is £735,480 compared to £459,540 for a home 70 miles away – 38% less. But there’s an exception with homes within a 20-minute commute of zone one where the average price is only £458,070. These areas tend to be on the edge of the Greater London boundary where fast trains from further afield into London make their last stop before reaching zone one. Areas such as Watford, Slough and Dartford fall into this category.

 

Small areas soar in price

With nearby countryside and a slower pace of life it’s easy to see the attraction of villages, particularly for those seeking larger properties on bigger plots. In fact, 94,000 households over the previous year had moved out of a city or suburb into the countryside. Prices in villages within commuting distance of London have soared with so many buyers leaving the city. But more limited housing stock is likely to have contributed to some of the price growth in rural areas.

The villages Lenham in Kent and Cressing in Essex had the highest increases in values for four-bedroom properties last year, each surging by 17% year-on-year.Average valuations in Lenham, 57 minutes from zone one, reached £507,375, while prices in Cressing, 56 minutes from zone one, stood at £428,438. Homes in the Bedfordshire village Kempston Hardwick, just more than an hour from London, rose by 16% to £384,200.

The rises compare with marginal increases in value in many areas within a 70-minute train journey from Central London, and decreases by as much as 16%, in Northfleet in Kent. Prices in Northfleet, a town close to Gravesend, fell to £297,211.

By price brand some of the least expensive homes had the highest year-on-year growth. Homes that sold for between £300,000 and £500,000 last year grew in value by 6%. Increases slow at the half a million mark, to 5% for homes worth up to £700,000, and even further, to 4% in the £700,000 to £800,000 bracket.

 

Traditional hotspots

But the traditional commuter towns to the West also remain popular. Henley-On-Thames, Maidenhead and Woking where the average price of a 4-bedroom home costs over £750,000 have all seen pries rise over 10% in the last year. Whereas areas such as Esher, Cobham and Oxshott where family homes cost over £1million on average have seen much slower price growth in the last year, with average prices rising just 0.1% compared to 6% growth in homes costing between £400,000 and £500,000.

 

The true cost

House prices are an important factor when leaving the capital but buyers planning on commuting to London will need to factor in substantial train fares.  For instance, annual season tickets commonly cost between £5,000 and £6,000 for passengers travelling about 45 minutes out of London.

Furthermore, cancellations and significant delays to services can add hours to a week’s commute. However, the benefits of moving away are likely to outweigh the negatives for those seeking more choice and a different quality of life outside London.

 

Minutes Average price of a four bed home
20  £       458,070
25  £       735,479
30  £       706,720
35  £       660,030
40  £       638,845
45  £       601,992
50  £       570,690
55  £       534,543
60  £       506,117
65  £       506,819
70  £       459,542

Source: Hamptons Research

Source: Hamptons Research