Hot Spot: Maidenhead

When travelling east and west, a compromise is best
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The Independent Online

Twenty-five miles from London in a pretty Thames Valley area, Maidenhead has always been an attractive commuter town for the capital. But this growing riverside Berkshire town of 60,000 has also proved resilient to recent economic and demographic changes. The South-east has become job-rich, and Maidenhead lures buyers and renters who need access to Bristol, Reading, Bracknell and Slough as well as London.

Twenty-five miles from London in a pretty Thames Valley area, Maidenhead has always been an attractive commuter town for the capital. But this growing riverside Berkshire town of 60,000 has also proved resilient to recent economic and demographic changes. The South-east has become job-rich, and Maidenhead lures buyers and renters who need access to Bristol, Reading, Bracknell and Slough as well as London.

For couples working apart (not atypically, one will be in London and the other in Oxford or Bath or other financial-services or silicon hotbed) Maidenhead's excellent road and rail communications make it a first-class compromise. For families, the area also has good schools, shopping, waterside activities, golf and a variety of other leisure activities.

"Maidenhead remains a commuter town first and foremost and the influx of people from Greater London seems unlikely to cease," says Chris Moorhouse of Hamptons estate agent. "This should ensure that the property market remains strong in the foreseeable future

But a growing number of commuters have destinations other than the capital. "Maidenhead is becoming an important commercial centre in its own right, emerging as an important base for information technology companies and their associates," Mr Moorhouse adds. "Salaries have increased with jobs in these companies, and this has had an effect on demand for, and prices of, local property. Property prices in Maidenhead have risen dramatically with most properties more than doubling in value since 1996. We expect prices to continue to rise, although at a steady rate."

The trend for landlords is not as rosy. Kathi Taylor, who runs the lettings department for Hamptons, says a slowdown was evident before the attacks in America: "On the larger properties, rents started dropping from August. We have more properties than applicants, and we seem to be one of the busiest agencies in the area. We have fewer corporate lets, and people who are moving are those who have no choice, because of a job or because the person buying their house is pressing them to complete."

Rents are sensitive to even slight shifts in supply and demand. Ms Taylor says: "Rents have fallen slightly and landlords have to be realistic, although yields are probably still around 6 per cent."

But she doubts many owners will be forced to sell their properties now. "I think they will keep a toehold in the property market, especially compared with the stock market for long-term investments."

Transport

Maidenhead, Berkshire, is about 30 minutes by train to London Paddington and by car to Heathrow. An annual railcard costs £1,988. The Maidenhead-Marlow spur has stations at Furze Platt, Cookham and Bourne End. The A404 provides fast links to the M4 and M40.

Prices

One-bedroom conversion flats are available for less than £100,000. Two-bedroom cottages cost about £150,000, and three-bedroom terraces are for sale at around £175,000. Executive homes cost between £600,000 and £800,000, and luxury riverside flats can set you back up to £500,000. Hometrack's survey of local estate agents shows that sellers here take averages of seven weeks and 17 viewings to sell their property in Maidenhead, where prices were said to be holding steady last month.

Properties

A one double-bedroom top-floor (ie loft) conversion flat in a period house is selling for £93,950 at Atkinson & Keene, whose for-sale list also includes a four-bedroom detached house with dining room, reception, study and large garden and garage near the river for £475,000. In the outlying villages, two-bedroom cottages start at about £200,000.

Half a church

A 1,238sq ft three-bedroom three-reception freehold church conversion in Holy Trinity Church, built in the 1860s south of Maidenhead, is selling for £380,000 at Hamptons.

Lets

The September lettings list at Hamptons ranged from a one-bedroom annexe near a golf and leisure club for £625 per calendar month to a four-bedroom riverside Edwardian house near the town centre for £3,500. Larger houses in Bracknell, Cookham and Marlow seek rents between £4,500 and £8,000.

New

Housebuilder Michael Shanly has completed three- and four-bedroom townhouses near the town centre, from £239,950; on-site sales centre, 01628 785272, or selling agents Braxton, 01628 674234. Bewley, Fairclough, Kings Oak, Laing and Westbury are also active in this area.

Village properties

Hamptons are selling a 1,324sq ft flat in Nashdom, a converted Lutyens mansion in Burnham, less than four miles from Maidenhead; £357,000. A three-bedroom cottage in this development is selling for £375,000. In Waltham St Lawrence, seven miles from Maidenhead, a Grade II two-bedroom cottage with exposed beams and 1,668sq ft is selling for £374,950. Other popular area villages include Bray, Pinkneys Green, and Cookham, along with less well-known Shurlock Row and Fifield.

Amusements

Riverside Gardens offers crazy golf, Ray Mill Island has an aviary and a picnic area, and Braywick Nature Centre boasts regular events, exhibitions and nature trails. The Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead operates decent leisure centres in Maidenhead, Windsor, and Sunningdale.

Atkinson & Keene, 01628 633376; Hamptons, 01628 622131

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