Good-value commuter areas: Esher, Walton-on-the-Hill, Broxbourne and Carshalton

With rail commuting costs set to soar again, Ruth Bloomfield finds affordable spots offering good quality of life near London
The ranks of the “£5,000 club”, the nickname given to those unfortunate commuters paying through huge sums of money for their daily commute to London, are about to swell. Train companies will impose inflation-busting fare increases of up to nine per cent from the start of next year. This will make train journeys painfully expensive, and long train journeys in search of cheaper property prohibitive. So the spotlight will swing back to locations near London.

The received thinking is that the closer you are to London,the more expensive the property but there are places which tick the property box with relatively low travel costs, great quality of life and affordable property.

Bargain commuting towns
© Alamy
Esher is one of the most affluent towns in the home countries and has an annual season ticket cost of £2,096

Bargain commuting towns
£375,000: a two-bedroom house in Common Road, Claygate, Esher
Annual season ticket: £2,096
Journey time: 31 minutes to Waterloo
Average property price: £840,306

Why live there: leafy Esher is known as stockbroker-belt heaven and is one of the most affluent towns in the home counties. For the past three years the Halifax Quality of Life Survey named it happiest town to live in. It has a swift commute, and Jonathon Dredge, manager at Hamptons International, recommends the great schools, including the “outstanding” Esher CofE Aided Primary School and Esher CofE High School, plus independent options like Claremont Fan Court School. It's affluent so there are plenty of bars, bistros, coffee shops, and a high street heavy on independent boutiques.

Property tends to be from the Twenties and Thirtiess, with Victorian terraces in the town centre and some new build executive mansions on private developments, particularly Blackhills, which sell for up to £12 million. Many buyers are families leaving London, with a typical four-bedroom house from £900,000, while period cottages in the centre cost from around £350,000.

“Esher provides a strong community spirit with lots for children to do, good pubs and shopping at Kingston-upon-Thames only four miles away,” says Dredge.

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Bargain commuting towns
£295,000: a two-bedroom house in Sandlands Road, Walton-on-the-Hill
Annual season ticket: £2,224 (from Tadworth Station)
Journey time: 47 minutes to London Bridge
Average property price: £535,898

Why live there: Walton is consistently overshadowed by its more glitzy Surrey neighbours, which Alan Gout, a director of Michael Everett estate agents, believes is largely down to its lack of a station. The station is at Tadworth, a mere mile away. This small dfference makes Tadworth more attractive to commuters but Walton is much prettier and very undervalued.

“It is a lot more rural, more of a typical English village with a green and a pond," he says. The village has a couple of shops, and a small supermarket is due to open next year. There are three pubs, restaurants and a primary school that's rated “outstanding” by government watchdog Ofsted. Seniors have a choice of high-performing schools in nearby Reigate, Dorking and Banstead.

Walton sits at the peak of the North Downs, so walkers, cyclists and horse riding fans will be in their element. Walton Heath Golf Club has hosted the Ryder Cup. Gatwick Airport is only 15 minutes away but there is no aircraft noise and just a rumble of traffic noise from the M25 in winter when the trees are bare of leaves.

Property in the village dates back to the 16th century, but much of it was built to service the golf club. A two- to three-bedroom Victorian workers’ cottage would cost from around £300,000, while for £1 million you could buy a four-bedroom detached family home from the same period. You can have the manor house with 10 bedrooms and 10 acres for £10 million.

By prime Surrey prices Walton looks like something of a bargain. “Walton is very undervalued compared with places like Elmbridge,” says Gout. “It is 10 miles away and half the price. Elmbridge has some better shops and its own stations, but I don’t think it's a problem for Walton residents to walk a mile home to such good value property.”

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Bargain commuting towns
£745,000: three- to four-bedroom Lantern Cottage in Carneles Green, Broxbourne
Annual season ticket: £2,276
Journey time: 27 minutes to Liverpool Street
Average property price: £306,290

Why live there: the link to the City's fast, and Broxbourne is set in lovely, lush country with Broxbourne Woods, a national nature reserve, just out of town and the River Lee Country Park - scene of canoe and kayak events at the 2012 games - on the doorstep.

The town centre is pretty, with 16th-century buildings on the high street and the New River passing through the town centre.

There is a small parade of shops, a couple of pubs and one or two neighbourhood restaurants. Richard Wells, senior manager at Hetheringtons, says families tend to come from north and north east London in search of value-for-money homes and great schools.

The Broxbourne School for seniors is rated “outstanding” by Ofsted.

Homes in the village range from fine early Victorian villas near the station from £600,000, to three- or four-bedroom 1950s semis for around £350,000 to £500,000. At the very top end homes on Carnaby Road are gradually being torn down and replaced with modern six-bedroom mansions exceeding £2 million.

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Bargain commuting towns
£359,950: a three-bedroom house close to Carshalton station
Annual season ticket: £2,072
Journey time: 28 minute to Victoria
Average property price: £281,574

Why live there: the commute is quick, and Stacey Pain, of Hunters Estate Agents, says although Calrshalton is on the fringes of London it retains a “sense of village community and rural living.” The pretty village centre has several picturesque ponds, some decent cafes, delis, local shops, traditional pubs and waterside parks. There is a refurbished leisure centre and excellent grammar schools: Wallington Country Grammar School (boys), Wallington High School for Girls, Wilson’s (boys), Sutton Grammar (boys). “The area also attracts young families, professionals and couples enjoying nearby towns of Sutton and Croydon."

Despite its pretty centre, property in Carshalton is a bit soulless, with sprawling new-ish executive mansions priced at around £1.3 million, and five-bedroom detached homes - Edwardian onwards - from around £700,000. A four-bedroom semi will set you back £400,000 and £450,000 and there are two-up, two-down’s from £200,000.

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Source: National Rail, Zoopla

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