Exclusive: new report reveals the top 20 homes hotspots within a 60-minute commute of London

As the number of Londoners leaving the capital in search of bigger homes is rising to record levels, an exclusive new report reveals the top towns with good-value homes within an hour's commute.
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Colchester may have an average high street, but it has good schools and great-value homes (Alamy)

London’s commuter belt is having a bit of a moment right now. The number of Londoners leaving the capital is at record levels, about 250,000 a year, according to the Office for National Statistics, with most in search of areas where they can afford a family-sized home near well-rated state schools. 

The exit roll-call has been boosted by last year’s stamp duty changes. A recent report by Hometrack concluded that the home counties are the biggest beneficiaries of the tax reform.

Savills forecasts London’s commuter hinterland will experience the strongest medium-term price growth in England. Its findings are based on analysis of the number of season ticket sales from the main commuting stations — establishing just where London’s commuter army now lives and why.

And it found, unsurprisingly, that Londoners on the move are looking for somewhere not too isolated, with a quick journey into town. 

REVEALED: THE TOP 20 COMMUTER HOME HOTSPOTS



A quarter of the top 20 locations are within half an hour - including Reading and Shenfield, which will benefit from the Crossrail development - as well as Woking and Gatwick.

Maidenhead in Berkshire is the swiftest, at just 20 minutes from the capital, with average homes on sale at just less than £428,000. An annual season ticket costs £2,908.

Maidenhead itself has a dreary town centre, but the surrounding area is home to some lovely commuter  villages, most notably Cookham, Cookham Dean, foodie paradise Bray, picturesque town Marlow and many more. Cookham Dean is famous as the place where Kenneth Grahame wrote The Wind in the Willows. The village adjoins the National Trust’s beautiful Winter Hill estate, looking down into the Thames Valley. 

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£729,950: this spacious four-bedroom family home also has four reception rooms, a large garden and a pool


COOKHAM DEAN
The village is busy enough to support a handful of pubs and a primary school, rated good by Ofsted. Its popularity is driving average prices up, inexorably, towards the £1 million mark. According to Zoopla, village properties currently change hands at an average £970,658, up 3.17 per cent in the past year.

This is likely to rise in 2018, when Maidenhead will join the Crossrail  network. With direct links to the  West End and the City, this is as sure-fire a way as any to identify where  price growth is likely.

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£350,000: a one-bedroom terrace house in Church Road, a mile from Cookham mainline station


GUILDFORD
One of the most expensive locations to make the top 20 is Guildford, among Surrey’s top commuter towns, with average prices standing at almost £409,000 (a detached house in this area would cost about £760,000). An annual season ticket for the 37-minute journey costs £3,400.

Richard Howell, sales manager of Hill Clements estate agents, says the town has been a magnet for south-west  Londoners for decades. “You have got a great high street, nearby pretty  villages and vast countryside. You are an hour from the coast and close to both airports, and there is a wide variety of very good schools,” he says.

House prices go up the closer you are to the station. Howell estimates that a four-bedroom property within walking distance would cost “from just under £1 million to about £1.25 million”. Three miles to the east, a more modern four-bedroom house (requiring a cycle or drive to the station, where parking costs about £1,500 a year) is between £500,000 and £600,000.

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£469,950: a four-bedroom detached house with three reception rooms and a garden, two miles from Guildford mainline station.


COLCHESTER
Colchester in Essex is also in the  top 20, with a 52-minute journey into London. An annual season ticket  costs £4,796, but the payoff is excellent value for money. The average house price is under £200,000, with a detached house under £300,000.

The flavourless high street is packed with mid-range chains. The town has two cinemas, an arts centre, sports centres, and some decent pubs. The other draw for families is excellent schools, in particular Colchester County High School (girls) and the Royal Grammar School (boys). And Colchester has some property gold mines. The Dutch Quarter, just north of the city centre, has outstanding Tudor timber-framed homes (some with Georgian frontages). William Bardell, branch manager of Hestons estate agents, says buyers could pick up a two-bedroom house for between £165,000 and £250,000. 

Families gravitate towards the suburb of Lexden, 15 minutes’ walk from the town centre, for its grand Victorian villas. A four-bedroom home costs between £500,000 and £600,000. 

Colchester’s delightful villages are known as Constable Country, after the painter who was born in East Bergholt. These include exquisite Dedham, a 10-minute drive to the station. A four-bedroom timber-framed thatched cottage costs about £650,000.

Five of the top 20 locations for commuting into London are cities in their own right — Chelmsford, Cambridge, Winchester, Brighton and Oxford.

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£350,000: a four-bedroom detached house in Winnock Road, Colchester


WINCHESTER
“Most people want affordability, but they don’t want to lose London life,” says John Leeson, managing director of Belgarum estate agents in Winchester.

Winchester, just under an hour from London (annual season ticket £4,812), offers a winning combination of affordability — the average house is less than £415,000 and a detached home will cost about £624,000 — commutability and lifestyle.

This ancient capital of Wessex, perched on the western tip of the South Downs, was voted the best place to live in the UK with great housing, top state schools, such as Kings’ School Winchester, facilities and culture. The pretty town centre has sadly lost its independent shops, all but obliterated by predictable national chains. There are some excellent restaurants, notably the pleasantly unassuming Michelin-starred The Black Rat.

Leeson says: “It’s near the unique New Forest and the coast, and is steeped in history, and we have plenty of schools with good and outstanding Ofsted reports.”

Fulflood is just north west of the city centre and an easy walk to the station. A fine four-bedroom Victorian or Edwardian home in the area would cost between £600,000 and £650,000. In St Cross, to the south, a six-bedroom period pile would cost about £2 million.


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