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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.
The hard factors contributing to many moves are clear - a historically low Bank of England base rate, subsequently low mortgage rates and rising inflation. 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 of homes with less than a 45-minute commute into zone one 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 with £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 moved out of a city or suburb into the countryside. Prices in villages within commuting distance of London have risen with so many buyers leaving the city. But more limited housing stock is likely to have contributed to some of the price growth in these 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. The average price of a fourbedroom home 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.
However, the traditional commuter towns to the West also remain popular. Henley-On-Thames, Maidenhead and Woking, where the average price of a four bedroom home costs over £750,000 have all seen pries of more than 10% in the last year.
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% in the same period compared with 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 often outweigh the negatives for those seeking more choice and a different quality of life outside London.