Summer is the time to play the game of “fantasy house swap”. And the conditions are ideal with average London prices up five per cent in the year to May, to an average of £375,068 according to the latest Land Registry house price index.
The bad news is that if you want a bigger family home in town, you probably won’t be able to afford it, but as the property price gap widens between city and country your chances of buying a big house in a commuting zone becomes a reality... if the maths work.
If you head for a commuter hot spot such as Beaconsfield in Buckinghamshire or St Albans in Hertfordshire, the living won’t be cheaper and the journey will hurt. So think smart and search off the radar to swap your London home without busting the budget.
Twice voted the best place to live in the UK by the annual Halifax Quality of Life Survey, thanks to its great schools, easy commute to London, low crime rates, clean air and relative cost of living.
Fleet is not the prettiest town but its nearby villages are a delight and it has an excellent 44-minute train service to Waterloo. An annual season ticket costs £4,288. For £275,000 — £100,000 less than the London average — you can buy a period two- or three-bedroom house. Or opt for a four-bedroom detached house for around £435,000.
Schooling is a key reason to move here, with the high-achieving Court Moor School (rated “good” by Ofsted) extremely popular with parents.
Richard Day, director at Hamptons International in Fleet said “The average family in Fleet will stay in their family home for 15 years and then upsize or downsize within the area. We have seen a significant increase in demand: buyers registering from inside the M25 have doubled in the past four years.”
If you dream of thatched cottages and ducks splashing in the pond on the village green, this could be for you.
“It has a great established community with all the elements one would expect from village life: a local school, sports club, a lovely cosy pub, award-winning butcher, independent wine merchant and a village pond,” said Simon Proctor, of Knight Frank New Homes.
Prices will also make Londoner’s smile, as £250,000 will buy a storybook three-bedroom detached cottage and £475,000 — less than an average London new build—will buy a listed four-bedroom detached house in the heart of the village. Alternatively a new development, Church View, has 960sq ft, three-bedroom family houses for sale for £250,000 (knightfrank.com).
Hanslope is eight miles north of Milton Keynes, on the edge of Salcey Forest and 11 miles from Northampton. Trains from Milton Keynes to Euston take from 35 minutes and an annual season ticket costs £4,524.
Another choice for lovers of quintessential villages, Kersey is a particularly gorgeous option, although the journey will require commitment. The village is 12 miles from Manningtree station, with trains to Liverpool Street from 59 minutes. An annual season ticket costs £5,972.
Colchester station — 49 minutes to Liverpool Street — is 16 miles away and an annual season ticket costs £5,492. The eponymous village primary school is voted “outstanding” by the Government schools inspector, and the same could be said of value for money when it comes to property.
Compact one- or two-bedroom village-centre cottages are below £250,000, or a four-bedroom detached character house costs about £400,000.
Caroline Edwards, of Carter Jonas, says Kersey is one of Suffolk’s most sought-after and picturesque villages. It also has a thriving pub.
ST NEOTS, CAMBRIDGESHIRE
Although this sounds far away, trains from St Neots to King’s Cross take from 42 minutes, making it a feasible commuter option, with annual fares of £5,696. It has a busy Thursday market, a good range of independent shops and plenty of green space including Riverside Park with boating lakes and cycle paths.
A cinema is due to open this autumn, and annual events include a beer festival and rowing regatta. You are also only 18 miles from Cambridge itself. Schools are a mixed bag but Crosshall Junior School and Bushmead Primary School are both rated “good” by Ofsted, as is Longsands Academy (seniors).
One-bedroom flats in the town start at under £100,000, or you could buy a four-bedroom townhouse (modern or period) for just over £200,000.
There is a lot of new building going on, including the new Priory Gardens development by Redrow, close to the station, which has four- and five-bedroom houses priced from £314,950 (redrow.coluk/priory-gardens).