Every year an estimated 150,000 people head out of the capital in search of the things cities struggle to deliver: ample living space, a choice of good schools, that sense of community and easy access to countryside.
© Seb Rogers/Alamy
However, no matter how attractive the destination you choose, there is little point in moving if your new home means a commute to, say, Paddington - when your office is in the City.
'The choice of location travelling out of Victoria is dizzying, spanning three counties - Kent, Surrey and Sussex'
That's why home-hunters need to start their search backwards: which London terminal do you need to use for work and which areas do its commuter services come from? This week we look at the routes served by Victoria, the station used by Whitehall commuters and people with jobs along the District, Circle or Victoria Tube lines.
The choice of location travelling out of Victoria is dizzying, spanning three counties - Kent, Surrey and Sussex, including some of the most expensive real estate around London and some of the most reasonable down the line.
It is not easy to find the perfect setting, even down the line the best town can be seriously close to suburbia. To narrow the search, estate agent Savills has analysed options within an hour of London on the basis of affordability, quality and potential for price growth.
Marcus Dixon, a director of Savills, says: "We looked for nice places where you can get a little bit more for your money, which have a short train time and were a bit of a surprise choice."
Journey time: 33 minutes
Annual season ticket: £2,572
Average property price: £242,546 (saving: £96,162 on the cost of a similar London home)
Average detached property price: £343,463 (saving: £253,823)
Ten-year price growth: 93 per cent
Horley is a haven for outdoorsy types with The Weald on its doorstep, plenty of parks, and thriving cricket, hockey, tennis, rugby and bowls teams. The best areas are Langshott and Meath Green, with three-bedroom semis costing £250,000 and big family houses from around £450,000.
A major Barratt development, The Acres (barratthomes.co.uk), is under way on 129 acres towards the north-east of town. The third phase has just been released with three- to five-bedroom executive-style houses priced from £274,995 to £534,995.
James Richards, of estate agent White and Sons, says Horley is a popular choice for Londoners and commuters to nearby Gatwick. "It is an expanding town, and the corporate chains are starting to come into the high street," he said.
Horley has a decent array of shops and plenty of bars and restaurants, as well as Archway Theatre, the UK's only playhouse built within a Victorian railway arch. For shopping head to nearby Crawley, Croydon or Bluewater. Education is a serious concern. The main senior school is Oakwood School, which has recently been judged inadequate by Ofsted. Many parents are biting the bullet and going private, with nearby Reigate Grammar a popular choice.
Outside the town are lovely villages including Charlwood, Horwood Hill and Leigh, which are as lush and picturesque as you like. Cottages go from £300,000 to £500,000 and grand country houses with land for £1.5million-plus.
HAYWARDS HEATH (WEST SUSSEX)
Journey time: 42 minutes
Annual season ticket: £3,328
Average house price: £263,163 (saving: £75,545)
Average detached house price: 416,494 (saving: £180,792)
Ten-year price growth: 116 per cent
Property here ranges from Georgian town houses to mushrooming modern developments. Impressive detached houses on the edge of town, often with land, cost from £1.5 million, but you could get a really substantial five-bedroom period house for £500,000 to £600,000, a charming cottage for about £450,000 or a three-bedroom semi for £350,000.
Families are keen on the streets around Lucastes Road, convenient for the station. Local schools include Oathall Community College, rated good by Ofsted and with something of a reputation for producing rock stars. Suede's Brett Anderson and Mat Osman met there, and Saffron, lead singer of Republica, was also a pupil.
The town is close to the South Downs, fabulous for horse riders, walkers, and well-served for pubs, restaurants and shops. Charlie Rosling, of Knight Frank says: "I have seen Haywards Heath change a lot in the last 10 years. There are a lot more yummy mummies and Costa Coffees around, the professionals are moving in."
Sought-after villages in the area include Cuckfield and Ardingly, where a four-bedroom family house would cost between £400,000 and £450,000. But the poshest local village is picture-postcard Lindfield, with period houses selling from £550,000 to several million. For those on a tighter budget, Barratt Southern Counties has just launched The Limes, a development of 120 new homes set in woodland, with two-bedroom flats from £201,995 and four-bedroom houses from £359,995. See barratthomes.co.uk/thelimes for information.
HORSHAM (WEST SUSSEX)
Journey time: 54 minutes
Annual season ticket: £3,064
Average property price: £287, 541 (saving: £51,167)
Average detached property price: £424,999 (saving: £172,287)
Ten-year price growth: 98 per cent
London is just shy of an hour, but here is some real country living. The town is pretty, with the River Arun running through it and ancient St Leonard's forest on the outskirts.
Housing is mainly Victorian and pre and post-war, and a four-bedroom Victorian semi-detached house would cost between £350,000 and £500,000. The best street is The Causeway, a tree-lined avenue with houses dating from the 16th century, and some fine Georgians. Property and price varies wildly - from £400,000 to £1 million. The chunky, double-fronted Victorian houses on Richmond Road get snapped up - from around £700,000.
Banner Homes launched its Wealden Grove development of six traditional-style houses (connells.co.uk) this month. It's within walking distance of the town centre and due for completion in October. Prices start from £595,000.
Horsham scores with schools: Millais School (girls) is rated excellent by Ofsted, and Tanbridge House (mixed) is rated good. The Forest School (boys) could only manage satisfactory. Peter Maskell, of Brock Taylor, says the best villages close to Horsham include Slinfold, very picturesque and complete with a well-regarded pub, The Red Lion, and period houses from £400,000 to £1 million. Rusper is equally pretty and popular with pilots, being close to Gatwick, which means there is a noise issue locally.