Buying a home in Norfolk: three top spots to watch - Hingham, Holt and Downham Market

Londoners love Norfolk’s fabulous coastline, lovely market towns, keen house prices and period charm. It is the county of choice for many life-changers, weekenders and work-from homers.
Londoners love Norfolk and its North Sea coastline — but it’s a challenge to reach by train or car, so a home in one of its lovely market towns isn’t necessarily for commuters. Norfolk is the choice of life-changers, weekenders and work-from-homers drawn to a county of big skies, bracing winds and charming, affordable homes. Here are three destinations to consider.
 
HOLT: THE CHARMING UP-AND-COMER
This historic market town is a lovely place to hang out, with its Georgian good looks and independent shops, friendly butchers and bakers, a disproportionate number of art galleries, and cafés in the jumble of streets and quaint yards that run off the high street.
 
House prices have risen 8.7 per cent in the past year to stand at an average of £284,611. Holt’s increasing popularity is rather surprising, as the nearest train station is in Sheringham, a 20-minute drive away, with the journey to Liverpool Street taking from two hours and 53 minutes.
 
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£565,000: a beautiful listed four-bedroom house in historic Holt. Through Bedfords (01328 730500)

But the pull of the country for Londoners is strong. Paul Newell, manager and valuer at Sowerbys estate agents, says many of his buyers are from the capital who want to get away for weekends and holidays.
 
Couples who retire early love the outdoor life in Holt — the town is close to the Norfolk Coast Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, and the scenic waterways and rare wildlife of the Norfolk Broads.
 
Property prices start from about £220,000 to £250,000 for a two-bedroom traditional brick and flint cottage, which would make a lovely bolt hole, up to about £500,000 for a three-bedroom Georgian townhouse. A larger family house from the Twenties or Thirties would cost in the region of £700,000 to £800,000.

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HINGHAM: FOCUS ON COMMUNITY
Another scenic option is Hingham, 17 miles from Norwich and a journey of one hour and 54 minutes to Liverpool Street. An annual season ticket costs £8,640.
 
Hingham is a small town, but it punches above its weight. It became fashionable to own a second home here in the 18th century, so much so that it was nicknamed “little London”, and the legacy of its glory days are some wonderful, grand Georgian townhouses around the village green and marketplace.
 
House prices have climbed 14 per cent above peak levels to an average of £191,484 — an increase of 5.3 per cent in the past year.
 
Debbie Copeman, manager of Warners estate agents, says buyers rate the shops and sports centre, pubs and the strong community spirit in Hingham. “It is a thriving sort of place,” she adds.
 
Georgian townhouses in the market square rarely come up for sale, but two-bedroom cottages of the same period change hands nearby for about £150,000 to £200,000. Alternatively, you could buy a four- to five-bedroom period house for about £450,000. Four-bedroom modern houses go for about £250,000, but Copeman says Londoners are looking for homes with character and land.
 

DOWNHAM MARKET: ONE FOR COMMUTERS
Life-changers could also consider 16th-century Downham Market, which has the advantage of a relatively easy commute to London.
 
Prices here have performed respectably, up 5.7 per cent in the past year to an average of £164,126, which is seven per cent more than peak 2008 prices. Commuters can get to King’s Cross in about an hour and 32 minutes, and an annual ticket costs £6,464.
 
Downham Market is an old-school market town nicknamed the “Gingerbread Town” due to 16th-century cottages built from local orange-coloured sandstone, while the old town also has lovely Georgian and Victorian properties.
 
Chris Roberts, director of Ashton Roberts estate agents, says buyers are coming in from Cambridge as well as London because prices are good. “And we are very lucky in that there are no bad areas,” he adds.
 
For lovers of period homes, a four-bedroom Victorian villa would go for about £250,000 to £350,000. Or, for a four-bedroom modern house, expect to pay about £225,000.

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