Commuter watch: the best-priced counties a train ride from London

Make your commute worthwhile. Do the maths before you move to find that perfect, spacious family home
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Neil and Gurshan Wood
Neil and Gurshan Wood moved out of Docklands to Essex when they needed more space after baby Hari arrived
The arrival of a baby son prompted Neil Wood and his wife, Gursharn, to find more space than their cramped London townhouse could provide.

Though it had three bedrooms, the Docklands property came with only a tiny patch of garden — ideal perhaps for a young couple, but by the time Hari was 15 months old he'd accrued a heap of baby paraphernalia.

His dad used one bedroom as an office, which meant there was no spare room to accommodate visiting family. "And I think relatives always want to come and stay when you've started a family," says Neil.

"There were baby things everywhere, and we were just as guilty of having loads of stuff of our own. And we had things stored in the garage and up in the loft. We were absolutely rammed."

Given that buying a larger house in London was going to be prohibitively expensive, the couple's solution was to head for the country but, after a strategic search and pricing up the counties, they discovered they got more space per square foot in Essex than the alternatives and bought a new five-bedroom detached house near the village of Little Canfield.

It was a David Wilson Homes property and cost them £399,000 — about £50,000 more than they sold their London home for. For that extra money they have almost doubled their living space.

"The house is about 1,900sq ft," says Neil, 42, an IT consultant. "We have a dining room, two spare rooms, the living room is twice the size we had before so there is plenty of room for guests, and the garden is five times bigger, and the baby has his own playroom, so it is really good."

Gursharn, 43, has become a full-time mother and appreciates the leafy village environment, while there are high standards at the local school, which makes Neil's three- to four-hour daily round trip to work in the City worthwhile.

Space in the country

It is imperative for any Londoner planning to move to the country to realise that space comes at a different price in different counties.

David Wilson homses
David Wilson Homes Hartswood Mews scheme in Little Canfield, Essex, where Neil and Gurshan paid £399,000 for a five-bedroom home
New research by, published in April 2012, shows exactly how much more space you can expect to get for your money as you move beyond London. For instance, sell your flat in Putney for £820 a square foot and the report shows you could head to prime commuter territory, such as Sevenoaks in Kent and get, quite literally, a home of twice the size (at £405 a square foot).

And with a journey time of 33 minutes into central London, the commute would be only 20 minutes longer than from Putney. If you are prepared to spend longer on the train, lovely Lymington, in the heart of the New Forest, is only £298 a square foot, and your home could be two and a half times larger.

The research, which compares average price per square foot in almost 30 well-known and sought-after locations, shows you where to move if maximising space is your top priority. And it is not just about moving out of London.

If you are already out of the capital you could find that you, too, will gain cheaper space by moving county. If, for example, you move from expensive Henley-on-Thames in Oxfordshire (£495 a square foot) to Cranbrook in Kent (£250) you will be able to afford twice as much space and your journey time to London will be almost identical.

If you want to live in a city, don't move to Oxford where you'll pay £516 a square foot, when you can live in delightful Cambridge at only £322, again with the same sort of commuting time.

What you get for your money: commuter towns within an hour of London

Price per square foot and rail commuting distance from London

Berkhamsted, Hertfordshire: £334 a sq ft; train time to London 31 minutes.
Sevenoaks, Kent: £405 a sq ft; 33 minutes.
St Albans, Hertfordshire: £466; 19 minutes.
Epsom, Surrey: £374 a sq ft; 35 minutes.
Chelmsford, Essex: £264 a sq ft; 30 minutes.
Hertford, Hertfordshire: £482 a sq ft; 48 minutes.
Henley-on-Thames, Oxfordshire: £495 a sq ft; 44 minutes.
Reigate, Surrey: £418 sq ft; 39 minutes.
Sittingbourne, Kent: £293 a sq ft; 58 minutes.
Cranbrook, Kent: £250 a sq ft; 57 minutes (from Staplehurst station).
Cobham, Surrey: £331 a sq ft; 38 minutes.
Brighton, East Sussex: £351 a sq ft; 51 minutes.
Oxford, Oxfordshire: £516 a sq ft; 56 minutes.
Cambridge, Cambridgeshire: £322 a sq ft; 45 minutes.
Marlow, Buckinghamshire: £399 a sq ft; 48 minutes.

Commuter towns more than an hour from London

Lewes, East Sussex: £342 a sq ft; 70 minutes.
Sandbanks, Dorset: £695 a sq ft; 121 minutes (from Poole station).
Southwold, Suffolk: £341 a sq ft; two hours, nine minutes (from Halesworth station).
Salcombe, Devon: £536 a sq ft; three hours, 19 minutes (from Ivybridge station).
Wells-next-the-Sea, Norfolk: £330 a sq ft; two hours and 52 minutes (from Sheringham station).
Rock, Cornwall: £305 a sq ft; four hours and 50 minutes (from Newquay).
Bath, Somerset: £356 a sq ft; 84 minutes.
Cirencester, Gloucestershire: £220 a sq ft; 79 minutes (from Kemble station).
Lymington, Hampshire: £298 a sq ft; one hour and 45 minutes.

Source: Rail

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