The average age at which people move out of London and begin commuting back in for work is 32 – with starting a family the prime motivation for the lifestyle change.
A Hamptons International study found up to 550,000 Londoners leave the city each year, mostly to new homes in the South-east and the West of England. The majority have a young family, or plan to start one, and may not be able to afford a flat in the city, let alone a family house.
But it’s a misconception that as soon as you pass the M25 it will be possible to pick up a dream country home for a pittance. In reality, an average detached house in Kent costs £374,000, £587,591 in Hertfordshire and £700,908 in Surrey, according to property-and-house-prices website Zoopla.
That means shared ownership is as vital in the home counties as it is in central London. The problem is the standard of the build and the location are often disappointing, while the lack of architectural imagination displayed by some developers beyond the capital can be staggering. But there are exceptions.
Haddenham, one of the best villages in Buckinghamshire, lies about two miles from Thame and five from Aylesbury. Trains from Haddenham & Thame Parkway to Marylebone take from 40 minutes and an annual season ticket is £4,520. This scenic village has thatched cottages, duck ponds, a small high street, its own junior school, and is in the catchment area for Aylesbury’s grammar schools. Catalyst Housing (homesbycatalyst.co.uk) has 18 two and three-bedroom houses available at its Thame Fields development, a few minutes’ walk from the station. A 35 per cent share of a two-bedroom house with a market value of £240,000 costs £84,000.
Properties for London commuters
Properties for London commuters
A three-bedroom house at Brunel Gardens in Furze Platt, Maidenhead, at £425,000. Maidenhead offers a 23-minute trip to Paddington (an annual season ticket costs £3,604) plus the promise of a Crossrail station opening in 2018. Its waterways are to be upgraded so boats can sail through the centre and on to the Thames, and developer ING hopes to begin a £150m scheme soon with more than 200 flats, plus shops and offices.
This five-bedroom detached house in Rochester, Kent, is on the market with Strutt & Parker for £1.85m. A new £26m station for this Medway town is due to open around Christmas next year. The journey is already fast, with trains to St Pancras taking 39 minutes. An annual season ticket, after the new year fare hikes, costs £3,784. Rochester boasts great schools – Rochester Grammar School is outstanding according to Ofsted.
A Bellway home at Marconi Evolution in the heart of Chelmsford, from £175,000. The commute to Liverpool Street from Chelmsford is 30 minutes and an annual season ticket is £4,592. Chelmsford, granted city status in 2012, has plenty going for it, including the top-performing state secondary schools, King Edward VI Grammar and Chelmsford County High. There are bars and restaurants in the town centre, though these may be a bit chain-ish for some tastes. The smartest suburb is Old Moulsham.
A five-bedroom, three-bathroom home with six stables and 18 acres of pasture in Knaphill, Woking for £1.45m. Trains from Woking to Waterloo take less than 30 minutes and an annual season ticket is £3,704. The town centre has plenty of neighbourhood restaurants and pubs and the theatre hosts the Royal Shakespeare Company and Northern Ballet. The town schools are mostly high-achieving and St John the Baptist Catholic Comprehensive is rated “outstanding”. The average property price is £236,022.