Londoners with growing families in search of more living space, but still within a bearable commute from the capital, are heading to the Home Counties.
Countryside homes: Surrey
Elmbridge, which includes smart towns such as Weybridge and Cobham, is the most expensive corner of Surrey, with average prices for detached homes coming in at £1 million-plus.
But if you have a more modest budget then it is in Spelthorne, with an average price of £432,000, that the bargains are to be found.
And don’t rule out humble Staines. Tim DeSouza, branch manager of Townends, says it has great transport links, with trains to Waterloo in 34 minutes (annual season ticket: £2,236), and good shopping facilities.
He recommends the quiet, pretty Thames-side village of Laleham, just beyond the outskirts of Staines, which has three-bedroom detached houses from £500,000 to £700,000.
If you need more bang for your buck then Ashford, Kent, could be the answer, and £350,000 to £400,000 will buy you a three-bedroom detached house, Victorian or modern. You could alternatively buy a five-bedroom executive home from around £450,000. Trains to Waterloo take 38 minutes (annual season ticket: £2,052).
Adding to the family appeal the town’s St Michael’s Catholic Primary School is rated “outstanding” by Ofsted, and Spelthorne Junior School is rated “good”.
Essex: good schools and countryside
The most inexpensive of the home counties, according to the research is Essex, with the average detached home selling for £361,000. “Essex conjures up Basildon and Billericay sprawl which is why it is not fashionable,” says Jeremy Smallman at Jackson-Stops & Staff.
But Essex has two key elements that are catnip to parents: grammar schools and lovely countryside. He estimates a detached four-bedroom house in the village of Stock, outside Chelmsford, would cost about £750,000, and trains from neighbouring Ingatestone take less than half an hour to Liverpool Street (annual season ticket: £3,880).
If you want a prettier option then Great and Little Waltham have classic village good looks, and you could buy a detached 16th-century cottage with four bedrooms from about £750,000.
© John Lawrence
Swapping Notting Hill for West Berkshire
Like so many other new parents Lucy and Tom Cropper left London for the sake of their firstborn. Hugo, who is now 22 months old, will not remember the first year of his life spent in a two-bedroom Notting Hill flat, of course. He’ll remember a childhood in a five-bedroom Thirties house in the village of Highclere — close to the castle made famous by Downton Abbey.
The family moved earlier this year to the borders of Berkshire and Hampshire in search of more living space, a bigger garden, and to give Hugo a country childhood.
And it has worked for them. Lucy, 29, has settled in the countryside in a village with good facilities and Tom, 31, can cope with the 90-minute commute to the City, though the annual season ticket is £4,500.
“Hugo has really come on since we have moved, and the baby groups here are equal to London’s,” says Lucy.
The move also made financial sense — their London flat sold for about £700,000 and the house they bought through Carter Jonas cost a fraction less, at £685,000.
According to data produced by Savills the average price for a family home in Surrey, the most expensive of the home counties, is £670,000 — the Greater London average price for a detached home is £759,000.