The rolling hills and affluent market towns of Surrey are among the most expensive real estate in Britain. While the Government’s Help to Buy scheme offers 95 per cent mortgages in an effort to help first-time buyers and second steppers, the upper property value limit of £600,000 won’t stretch far in the swankiest parts of the county.
Virginia Water, for example, reached the milestone this summer of becoming the only area outside London where an average home now costs £1 million or more.
But don’t let the eye-watering costs of Surrey’s gated enclaves deter you. Outside of Virginia Water, the footballers’ mansions of Englefield Green and the increasingly oligarch-friendly Wentworth Estate, there are plenty of other options to explore without the need for a seven-figure budget.
£450,000: a three-bedroom terraced house in Weybridge, which has fantastic commuting links with trains to Waterlook only taking about half an hour
There are period homes in this affluent Georgian town which can be bought for £600,000 or less, and residents can take advantage of its great commuter links, cracking state schools and excellent shops and facilities.
The town’s average property price is currently £663,389, according to Zoopla, up almost nine per cent in the past year — an excellent performance and one that promises future price rises as families from London are lured south-westwards. Commuting is a breeze since trains to Waterloo take about half an hour, and an annual season ticket costs £2,396.
Christopher Nelson, deputy manager at John D Wood estate agent, says you can find a family house in the town for below £600,000, although it won’t be a country pile.
“You can buy a 1,493sq ft, four-bedroom, two-reception room Edwardian terrace house in Weybridge for just under £600,000, or a three-bedroom, postwar 1,231sq ft terrace house with communal gardens for £385,000.”
Schooling is excellent, with Nelson recommending a string of schools including Cleves and St James junior schools and Heathside School for seniors. The town centre is pretty with good traditional pubs, notably the Queen’s Head, and since Weybridge is on the Thames there is plenty of watery fun whether it be canoeing, strolling the towpath or having a drink in a riverside pub.
The town has good parks. Weybridge Heath is expansive while Brooklands Park is particularly well-equipped for children with a play area, BMX track and skateboard park.
“Weybridge has a traditional high street with a mix of boutiques and national retailers, restaurants and cafés,” says Nelson.
£400,000: this two-bedroom cottage in Haslemere dates from the 1550's and is close to miles of National Trust land
This market town has become increasingly alluring for London commuters thanks to the opening of Hindhead Tunnel, which has helped with traffic gridlock on the A3 between London and Portsmouth.
As well as being from 49 minutes by train to Waterloo (annual season ticket £4,456) Haslemere is less than an hour’s drive to Heathrow or the south coast, and right on the doorstep of the South Downs National Park which, says Adrian Hardwick, of Keats estate agents, means it is possible to have the best of all worlds. “There are a lot of great facilities in the town, plus it is really easy to get around.”
The pretty town centre has a good mix of independent and high street shops, cafés and restaurants, plus film, music and theatre at the Haslemere Halls. There are regular festivals (from music to beer) in this community-spirited town, known for its safe, low-crime feel, plus a monthly farmers’ market, and sports clubs from athletics to rugby.
At present the town’s average property price is £459,000, up almost eight per cent in the past year.
Chris Hebert, manager of Hamptons International, says £600,000 would buy you a three- bedroom, semi-detached house in the centre of town within walking distance of the station.
“The schools in Haslemere are a real draw for those moving out of London,” adds Hebert. “Shottermill first and middle schools and Fernhurst Primary are extremely popular and their catchment areas tend to be tight. From a private school perspective, The Royal School, Haslemere Prep, Amesbury School and St Edmund’s are attractive options.”
Over the past year the town has started to show signs of a property recovery — not only are prices up but Hebert says the number of applicants is up 51 per cent year on year. Lack of stock, however, is a consideration. “It is not unusual to have three families bidding on property,” he says.
£575,000: this three-bedroom house in Unsted Park, Godalming, comes with modern interiors
This is the kind of quintessential small English town that Surrey does so well, with a centre peppered with 16th-century buildings and plenty of useful shops on the cobbled high street — plus, for London exiles, a Waitrose.
The town sits on the banks of the River Wey and there are several nice waterside pubs, a weekly market, a summer food festival and weekly open-air concerts at Godalming Bandstand from May through to September. There is also plenty to do for outdoor types: hire a canoe and explore the river or join the town’s cricket, cycle or tennis clubs.
Education is a big draw. Rated “good” by Ofsted are Godalming Junior School, Green Oak CofE Primary School and Nursery and St Edmund’s Catholic Primary School for younger children, and Broadwater School and Rodborough Technology College for seniors. And of course, Godalming is home to the leading independent school, Charterhouse.
Trains to Waterloo take from 43 minutes and an annual season ticket costs £4,156. Average property prices stand at £433,194, up 3.3 per cent year on year, and David Driscoll, branch manager of Burns & Webber estate agents, estimates that about 60 per cent of his buyers are London commuters. For £600,000 you could buy a three-bedroom Edwardian or Victorian semi in the sought-after suburb of Busbridge, which is within walking distance of the town centre and station.
In Charterhouse, also close to the station, property is a little less expensive and you could pick up a three- to four-bedroom Victorian semi for between £450,000 and £500,000.
Godalming is blessed with plenty of satellite villages but the two most popular are Milford and Wormley because they both have their own station, as well as quality primary schools. A four-bedroom, detached postwar house in Milford or a three/four-bedroom period property in Wormley would cost about £600,000.