Liverpool Street is the final staging post into the heart of the Square Mile. It is also the gateway out to swathes of prime Essex and Hertfordshire commuter territory.
Research by Savills on the best places to invest if you need to get to the station and don't want a journey of more than 45 minutes, throws up some interesting information.
Buying a home in Billericay, Essex, a pleasant but unremarkable town half an hour from Liverpool Street, will set you back about £295,000 - significantly more than the average £259,000 it would cost to buy in the prettier and more apparently affluent market town of Bishop's Stortford, in Hertfordshire. The towns are just seven minutes apart by train.
Marcus Dixon, a director of Savills, says: "It just shows that the extra seven minutes is a real factor for people. Another issue is that a lot of City boys are Essex boys, and that may be pushing up prices in the better Essex towns because they don't want to live in Hertfordshire."
Even stranger, when it comes to buying a detached house, is Ware, the furthest-flung of the three top commuter options, which is the most expensive - the average is £542,000.
Journey time: 30 minutes
Annual season ticket: £2,768
Average property price: £295,000 (saving on the average London price: £44,000)
Average detached property price: £438,000 (London saving: £159,000)
10-year price growth: 126 per cent
Billericay is quintessential small-town Essex. Paul Robinson, owner of Iles & Co, thinks commuters should put away their prejudices about the county. "People move into Billericay and around Billericay, but people are very reluctant to leave Billericay," he says.
According to Robinson, its charms lie in its bustling high street, plentiful green spaces (most notably Lake Meadows) and good education. Billericay School and Mayflower High School are both rated good by Ofsted.
Lovers of period housing will be disappointed, however, because although there are a few pockets of Victorian stock, most homes are post-war. The best street is Norsey Road, backing on to the beautiful Norsey Woods, where a small three- to four-bedroom house would cost £700,000 and homes have sold for up to £3 million.
Norsey Road forms one edge of Billericay's "golden triangle", along with Stock Road and Little Norsey Road. A four-bedroom, detached Fifties house within the triangle would cost between £700,000 and £800,000.
Outside town, the village of Ramsden Bellhouse is always popular. Strict planning rules state that no property can be built on a plot less than 60 metres (more in some areas). This means the village has big houses with big gardens, and the private roads are all very quiet. Houses here cost about the £1 million mark, and locals rate the local pub, the Fox and Hounds.
If you are determined to find a period home, Stock is the most sought-after village, with lovely late-Georgian and Victorian brick cottages and houses. Be warned, however, that even a modest two-up, two-down will cost you £300,000 — the premium for living in a picture-postcard village.
BISHOP'S STORTFORD, HERTFORDSHIRE
Journey time: 37 minutes
Annual season ticket: £3,216.
Average property price: £259,000 (London saving: £80,000)
Average detached property price: £423,000 (London saving: £174,000)
10-year price rise: 118 per cent
Bishop's Stortford teems with boutiques, bars and restaurants, perfect for the droves of refugees from Islington who move out for a taste of country life.
Joining them are families from north London, Surrey, Berkshire and Hertfordshire, attracted by a trio of Ofsted excellent schools: The Herts and Essex High School (girls), Bishop's Stortford High School (boys) and Hockerill Anglo-European College.
Ed Meyer, head of residential sales at Savills in Bishop's Stortford, suggests that comparatively low prices may be due to the proximity of Stansted airport, with fears over a third runway subduing prices. "That threat has just been lifted," he says. "So we may now see an uplift."
Meyer says the best streets in town are in the green and quiet north-west. Maple Avenue is the grandest, and a roomy Victorian villa would cost around £2 million. If that is too rich for your blood, then a four- to five-bedroom house in Mazegreen Road, also Victorian, would cost around £850,000.
Alternatives are high-end modern developments, such as St Michael's Mead, where prices start at about £600,000, and you could find a two-up, two-down Victorian cottage in the town centre for about £225,000.
Roads close to the station, such as Warwick Road and Pinegrove Road, are popular with commuters, and a family-size Victorian house would cost in the region of £1 million.
Nearby villages include Braughing, blessed with three pubs and a shop, and where a family house will cost about £1 million. Also favoured are the Pelhams (Stocking and Furneux). A chocolate-box cottage there would cost about £350,000.
Journey time: 45 minutes.
Average season ticket: £2,188.
Average property price: £283,000 (London saving: £56,000)
Average detached property price: £542,000 (London saving: £55,000)
10-year price change: 139 per cent
Ware is a town of two halves, in part modern and industrial (GlaxoSmith-Kline has a big plant in the area), and partly quaint and historic. Heritage highlights include the 14th-century St Mary's Church and council offices housed in a 14th-century former friary. There is also a chain of romantic Victorian gazebos along the River Lee, which flows through the town centre.
Hertfordshire has a reputation for good education, and Ware does not disappoint. Presdales School is rated outstanding by Ofsted, and the Government's schools watchdog also found The Chauncy School good with some outstanding features.
A modern two-bedroom flat near the station would cost from £180,000 to £200,000, according to Ersin Mehmet, of agents Jonathan Hunt. Also close to the town centre, a two-bedroom house built in the Nineties would cost about £200,000, while a Victorian cottage would be £230,000 to £250,000.
Good hunting grounds include Vicarage Road, where a two- to three-bedroom Victorian cottage would cost from £230,000, and a detached family house up to £400,000. Out of town, Mehmet rates Thundridge, a highly sought-after village just seven minutes' drive from the station. You would pay north of £500,000 for a detached family house. Prices in Wareside, five minutes' drive to the station but with a really rural feel, are similar.
Another village option is Great Amwell, with spacious Thirties houses plus 100ft gardens (£600,000 to £800,000). Also favoured are the Hadhams (Much and Little), where a cottage would cost from £350,000. If money is no object, Moor Place, a stunning Georgian country estate near Much Hadham, is on for £13.5 million through Savills.
Houses and flats for sale in Billericay
All savings figures are calculated based on the London average price of £339,000, and the London average for a detached house of £597,000.