Hertfordshire has Cinderella status compared with the other home counties — yet it also has great commuter links, some beautiful towns and villages, plus good-value homes.
The average house price, £249,541, rose 2.7 per cent over the last year. In another sign that Herts is on the up, a recent study found the number of homes changing hands in that period rose 28 per cent, while new buyer registrations grew by 32 per cent.
The Government’s Help to Buy scheme, which offers 95 per cent mortgages, has an upper limit of £600,000. That could buy a lovely family house in Hertfordshire — if you avoid the county’s top commuter location of St Albans and its great town centre, fast commute and expensive period homes. Happily, St Albans is only the tip of the Hertfordshire house hunting iceberg.
£325,000: this three-bedroom semi-detached house in Castle Street, Berkhamsted is located close to the train station and town centre
This is a good alternative to St Albans, says Deborah Catchpole of estate agents Strutt & Parker. The commute is about half an hour and an annual season ticket is £4,364.
“The property is slightly cheaper and it is a popular, proper country town,” says Catchpole. “It offers buyers beautiful countryside — you go straight into the Chiltern Hills — at an easily commutable distance. It also lies on the edge of the National Trust’s Ashridge Estate.”
There’s a twice-weekly market, a wide mix of coffee shops, restaurants and individual boutiques, a Waitrose, Tesco Metro and a soon-to-open Marks & Spencer food hall. The average house price, according to Zoopla, is £443,283, up just over four per cent in the last year.
Bridgewater Primary School, Victoria CofE First School, Greenway First and Nursery School, and Westfield First School are all rated outstanding by government watchdog Ofsted. However, the town’s state senior school, Ashlyns, is under supervision by Ofsted and is considered in need of improvement. Parents rate private Berkhamsted School (co-ed) as a good alternative.
£895,000: this four-bedroom house in the village centre of Albury overlooks a duck pond
Aldbury and Bovingdon
There are gorgeous villages outside Berkhamsted. Oliver Beales, of the town’s Knight Frank office, says: “Picturesque Aldbury is the epitome of an English village, with a green, a pond and historic stocks and whipping post.” It also has a church, a shop, period cottages and a pub. “Bovingdon has a variety of local shops and restaurants, a library and a choice of pubs. Potten End is an attractive village which has a local school, pubs and a shop, just two miles to the north of Berkhamsted.”
- Search for houses and flats for sale in Aldbury and Bovingdon
£795,000: this four-bedroom house in Kneesworth Street, Royston has landscaped gardens and is within walking distance of the local train station
This traditional market town is on the northernmost point of Hertfordshire, bordering Cambridgeshire. The people are friendly, the market square (which hosts a twice-weekly market) is pretty, and there is a vast range of property from modern executive homes to cute cottages in the outlying villages.
Two-bedroom flats go for under £150,000, with period semis for about £350,000 and detached family homes at about £500,000. Trains to King’s Cross take from 39 minutes, but the annual season ticket is a hefty £5,460. Royston town centre has suffered from the recession but still has plenty of pubs, shops and restaurants, and an active community organises a May fair, and annual kite and arts festivals. It’s only 15 minutes on the train to Cambridge for shopping and nightlife. There are football, tennis, squash, hockey and rugby clubs, while Therfield Heath, south-west of town, is a great open space for walkers and riders.
All of Royston’s first and middle schools get a “good” Ofsted rating, as does the senior school, Meridian.
For village life Toby Ridge, of Garrington Property Finders, rates Barley and Barkway for good looks and an easy journey into Royston.
£750,000: this five-bedroom Edwardian house in Hitchin currently converted into three apartments
The pretty and historic centre of Hitchin is bisected by the River Hiz. The town has an affluent vibe, good schools, acres of open space and good-value property. Trains to King’s Cross take from 28 minutes and an annual season ticket costs £3,508. Luton Airport is only 10 miles away and Hitchin is handy for the A1 (M) and the M1.
The high street has plenty of chain and individual shops. There are mid-range chain restaurants as well as good local independents such as The Hermitage and Just 32, plus independent pubs and even a couple of nightclubs.
For the under-11s, St Ippolyts, St Andrew’s and Codicote CofE primary schools are all rated “outstanding” by Ofsted. For seniors, Hitchin Girls’ School also receives an “outstanding” grade, while Hitchin Boys’ is considered “good”.
Open space includes Bancroft Recreation Ground, which has tennis courts, and a climb up Windmill Hill is rewarded with lovely views of the Chiltern Hills. The average property price is £272,421, up four per cent in the last year, while a four-bedroom semi would cost from £420,000.