Elizabeth Bannard, of London, writes: My partner and I are hoping to move to the coast within the next couple of months.
We've been considering both Kent and West Sussex but are open to suggestions. We wouldn't like to move anywhere too busy or frantic so Brighton is definitely out.
I will still need to travel into central London for work four days a week but am happy to consider any combination of driving, coach or train.
Our ideal home would have a sea view, at least three bedrooms, a garage or workshop and an enclosed garden for our dog.
Our current home, a Victorian cottage, is under offer and our budget is £250,000. Can you help, or suggest a strategy for narrowing down our search area?
House Hunter replies: The strategy to narrow down your search area will be determined by the size of the budget.
Out of the areas you mention, only in Kent will you get something ticking most of the boxes on your wish-list, but even there you will have to compromise.
An average home in Kent costs £214,000, according to the Land Registry, which records all property transactions and sale prices in England and Wales; the comparable figure in West Sussex is £233,500.
When you remove the low-cost flats and one and two bedroom houses, all of which are too small for you, then the typical price of a large family property of the kind you want is likely to be well above these averages.
East Sussex is almost as expensive as its westerly neighbour. Add to these prices the premiums you will have to pay for being close to the water let alone for a house with sea views, plus a further premium for being commutable to London - even with a hefty two-hour journey each way, for example - and you will see you are being a little over optimistic.
I have selected a number of three bedroom or larger properties on the assumption that space is vital, and I have ensured that you can make it to London within two hours. Each house is near the coast but only one will give you a sea view, and then a very limited one.
Large gardens are still surprisingly plentiful in many Kent coastal towns although you may well have to build your own workshop or shed.
Space for car parking is, of course, very difficult and you may have to take your chances finding a space on the street.
In most cases, a large house that directly overlooks the water may well cost you £50,000 or even more above your budget, I am afraid.
Yet despite your tight finances, there is still plenty of choice if you are willing to live a few streets aways from the water.
Property one: Four bedroom house, Whitstable.
Agent's details: This semi-detached house with gas central heating and double glazing is one of 18 on a development near the town centre and a short walk from the harbour. There are good roads to central London 61 miles away. A direct train to London Victoria takes about 90 minutes and services are very frequent.
Agent: Fosters, www.fosterspropertyservices.co.uk, 01227 277254.
Property two: Five-bedroom house, Margate.
Agent's details: Many people believe Margate to be a little too cheap and cheerful for their tastes, but it gives good value for money. This mid-terrace Victorian house is just off the Royal Esplanade of Westbrook, with sandy beaches about 100 yards away.
The centre of Margate is about a half a mile away.
The master bedroom has a walk-in wardrobe. There are three reception rooms and a separate study, and a fitted kitchen.
There is a large walled garden - 45 feet by 19 feet - at the back but no shed or guaranteed parking.
Agent: Terence Painter Properties, www.terencepainter.co.uk, 0845 347 0297.
Property three: Five-bedroom house, Hythe.
Agent's details: There are sea views but from only one of the bedrooms. This is a 70-mile drive to central London but roads are often tricky and you might be best to drive to a station with a good train service. This semi is set over three floors with a 100-foot rear garden with a large patio and a partly filled-in swimming pool. There is rear access to the Hythe Canal and a path towards the sea.
Agent: Stephen Alleyne & Co, www.stephenalleyne.com, 01303 250194.
Some areas of coastal Kent are effectively excluded from our search at the moment. There is no reliable way of making a journey from Dover to central London in two hours, for example.
But Kent's commutability is set to improve.
Ebbsfleet in Dartford is where a Channel Tunnel rail link station is scheduled to open next year, which will speed up journeys to London for local commuters as well as lifting the profile of the town.
In the near future Ashford, a current Channel Tunnel rail link station, is to carry domestic commuters routinely to and from the capital, reducing the typical travel time from about 83 minutes to 37.
Therefore, anyone now buying in Kent, even in far flung coastal areas, will have viable road-and-rail combined commutes in the coming few years so they should benefit from substantial appreciation as the county becomes more popular with buyers.
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