Ones to watch: nine commuter hotspots less than 60-minutes from London

Nine locations beyond the M25 get you into Liverpool Street in under an hour. We uncover the towns and villages where the average property prices start at £200,000...
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Liverpool Street is one of London’s busiest stations — partly because of its prime position in the City, and partly because it serves some of the most popular commuter villages and towns east of the capital.

The destinations it serves fit the  principal requirement for most commuters — getting home in less than an hour. So where should house hunters start looking for a property this Easter? Basically, from Liverpool Street, it’s Essex.

Exclusive research on the nine locations that lie beyond the M25, but within an hour of Liverpool Street, reveals a huge price difference between  Shenfield — a 27-minute journey — and  Manningtree, which takes the full  60 minutes. The average property in Shenfield costs £369,037, while up the track in Manningtree it’s £227,945, according to analysis by Savills. 

Shenfield residents pay the extra to save 66 minutes each day on a round trip to Liverpool Street. Every saved minute costs them £2,137. 


Chelmsford gets top marks
This is the most popular choice for commuters, with almost five million season ticket journeys each year from its station, largely because of the city’s excellent schools.

For boys, King Edward VI Grammar — known as Kegs — is one of the top secondary schools in the UK, and Chelmsford County High, for girls, has an almost equally stellar reputation. 
Both operate a 12-mile catchment limit, which has pulled more families out of Essex villages and into the city.

Granted city status in 2012, Chelmsford has first-rate sports facilities, open country on the doorstep, and Stansted airport is a 20-minute drive away. The town centre is a bit on the Towie side, but Old Moulsham has a great mix of cafés and independent shops. 

An average home in the city costs £269,072, up 8.6 per cent in the last year. Stephen White, a director of Savills, says Chelmsford is booming. “Over the last three years, there has been an explosion of development and house prices, and businesses and  people are coming in,” he said.

To the north of the city, thousands of new homes are being built at Beaulieu Park, a 604-acre site that was once the summer residence of King Henry VIII. Modern houses there are priced up to about £900,000 for a five-bedroom detached home, or for buyers lower down the ladder, a two-bedroom  Victorian cottage would cost from about £250,000. Two-bedroom flats are priced from about £200,000.

Shenfield is up-and-coming 
This is a semi-suburb with a journey time of just 27 minutes. Prices here have soared by close to 15 per cent since 2007, to an average of £369,037. 

Shenfield is at the easternmost point of the Crossrail line and, by 2018, will have fast direct routes to both the West End and Heathrow airport. 

Critics might find the area a little  soulless, with rather too many gated developments of executive homes, but  its high street very much passes the coffee shop test.

Colchester: history at home
This is the big-town option out of  Liverpool Street with average prices just a shade over £200,000 thanks to its 52-minute journey time.

The oldest town in England, Colchester has character and culture with a new £28 million art centre, designed by Uruguayan architect Rafael Viñoly and clad in gilded metal. It is known locally as the Golden Banana. 

Schools are great, in particular the highly sought-after Colchester County High School, for girls, and the Royal Grammar School, for boys, and there are plenty of good pubs. Its location on the Essex/Suffolk border means the beauties of the Stour Valley are close by and you are only 15 miles from Frinton-on-Sea.

On the downside, the high street has too many chain stores to be anything more than useful, but the Dutch Quarter, just north of the town centre, has some lovely and characterful period cottages with painted façades. 

Expect to pay about £175,000 to £200,000 for a two-bedroom home, or from about £250,000 to £300,000 for a house with three bedrooms. 

The grandest address in town is Lexden, about 15 minutes’ walk from the centre, and full of sprawling  Victorian villas.

The largest properties, with at least six bedrooms and going on for 4,000sq ft of space, are priced at  £1 million or more, but you could buy a four-bedroom Victorian semi for about £600,000.

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