From £425,000: for a three-bedroom house at Brunel Gardens in Furze Platt, Maidenhead, a development of 91 family homes and 21 apartments
Maidenhead offers a 23-minute trip to Paddington (an annual season ticket costs £3,604) plus the promise of a Crossrail station opening in 2018.
Money is pouring into this town. Its waterways are to be upgraded so boats can sail through the centre and on to the Thames, and developer ING hopes to begin a £150 million scheme soon with more than 200 flats, plus shops and offices. New flats around the station sold quickly, and Crossrail is expected to boost local prices by up to 15 per cent. The average property price of £371,036 is up 1.69 per cent in a year.
For £800,000 you could buy a five-bedroom detached Georgian house in walking distance of the town centre and station, on the market with Hamptons International. Two- or three-bedroom terrace homes start at about £300,000. A development of 91 houses and 21 flats has launched at Brunel Gardens, from £425,000 for a three-bedroom house.
From £175,000: for a Bellway home at Marconi Evolution in the heart of Chelmsford, a development of 437 flats and houses launching this spring on the site of the former Marconi wireless HQ
A favourite with Square Mile workers, the commute to Liverpool Street from Chelmsford is a swift 30 minutes, and an annual season ticket is £4,592.
Chelmsford, granted city status in 2012, has plenty going for it, including the top-performing state secondary schools, King Edward VI Grammar and Chelmsford County High.
There are bars and restaurants in the town centre, though these may be a bit chain-ish for some tastes. The smartest suburb is Old Moulsham, just south of the city centre, where Regency and Edwardian houses sell for between £400,000 and £600,000. There are lovely outlying villages. Fine & Country is selling a Grade II-listed former vicarage in an acre of grounds for £1.8 million.
Looking forward, there is the promise of smaller-budget homes. Countryside Properties and L&Q have outline planning permission to build a £1 billion new neighbourhood, Beaulieu, in the north east of Chelmsford, with 3,600 homes and a new station.
Launching this spring, Marconi Evolution, by Bellway, is a scheme of 437 new flats and houses, plus offices and community facilities, on the site of the former Marconi HQ. It is expected to take four years to complete, with prices from about £175,000.
£1.85 million: a five-bedroom detached house in Rochester, Kent
Work begins in earnest this year on a new £26 million station for this histotoric Medway town, accommodating 12-car trains and due to open around Christmas next year. Meanwhile, Network Rail says signalling work across Kent will make services to London faster and more reliable by next year.
The journey is already impressively fast, with trains to St Pancras International taking 39 minutes. An annual season ticket, after the new year fare hikes, costs £3,784.
Rochester boasts great schools - Rochester Grammar School is outstanding according to Ofsted - and pretty period homes which are, by Kent’s standards, highly affordable.
Strutt & Parker is selling a Grade-II* listed Georgian home with five bedrooms for £1.85 million, but you could buy a roomy, four-bedroom period family semi from about £500,000 or a three-bedroom terrace for below the £250,000 stamp duty threshold.
The new station will serve both the town and Rochester Riverside, a 74-acre development which will ultimately feature 2,000 new homes, plus cafés, bars, offices and shops. The scheme stalled in the downturn but Medway council hopes a deal will be struck with developers this year.
£1.45 million: a five-bedroom, three-bathroom home with six stables and 18 acres of pasture, Surrey
Plans are under way for a new town centre market, public square, shops, a hotel, spa and gym, and 100 flats. It is hoped work will start this year, with the opening in 2017.
Trains from Woking to Waterloo take less than half an hour, and an annual season ticket is £3,704. The town centre has plenty of neighbourhood restaurants and pubs and the theatre hosts the Royal Shakespeare Company and Northern Ballet.
Woking Park has its own pool and facilities for football, cricket and tennis, plus play areas. The town schools are mostly high achieving and St John the Baptist Catholic Comprehensive is rated “outstanding”.
The average property price is £236,022, up 4.55 per cent in a year. There are some huge trophy homes but a large four-bedroom detached house will set you back about £750,000, or you could get a modern semi with three bedrooms from about £350,000.
This traditional market town sits in great countryside in the Vale of the White Horse. Shops in the thriving town centre include a Waitrose, and there are bars, restaurants, cafés and some lovely historic buildings. The main senior school, king Alfred's Academy, is rated "outstanding" by ofsted, and in the private sector St Mary's School, Wantage, is on the outskirts.
Homeowners must commute from Didcot Parkway eight miles away with trains to Paddington in 45 minutes. There is, however, high-level backing, from the Association of Train operating Companies for a station at Wantage.
An annual season ticket costs £5,436.
The lack of a station holds down property prices. A three- to four-bedroom detached house in the town, with a big garden, costs from around £450,000. Permission is in place for a Persimmon Taylor scheme for 2,500 homes plus shops, three schools and a library two miles from the centre. Wantage is popular partly because of demand for professionals working at the nearby Science Vale, base of the European Space Agency and De Beers.