Young Londoners are becoming country-commuter first-time buyers as they catch onto the fact that affordable schemes outside London can be cheaper and give them a better quality of life.
Priced out of inner London, they are leapfrogging the suburbs and putting down roots in train-link friendly areas.
Milton Keynes, Reading, Luton and Farnborough are locations where buyers are taking advantage of developer deals and government-backed low-cost home-ownership schemes.
As in the capital, housing associations have broadened their traditional remit and are now selling private homes to first-time buyers at subsidised prices. Buyers do not have to be public sector key workers, and it is possible to buy without the need for a deposit.
Berkshire, Oxfordshire, Buckinghamshire, Hampshire, Middlesex
Thames Valley Housing Association is one of the major providers in this part of the country.
Knowle Village is a 53-acre parkland development on the site of a former hospital near Fareham, Hampshire, and was a winner in this year’s Evening Standard New Homes Awards.
One-bedroom flats start at £125,000, or £31,250 for a 25 per cent share. Buying one of these properties would cost about £515 a month, including service charges.
For information, call Thames Valley on 0845 351 2345.
Paramedic Sam Mason, 30, was living with her parents in Winchester before buying a shared-ownership home at Knowle Village.
“I couldn’t afford to pay the market price of £150,000, so bought a 25 per cent share of a two-bedroom property. It meant I only had to raise a 10 per cent deposit on the equity I bought, which made it manageable.”
My Choice HomeBuy
Newlyweds Jo and Savell Martin lived in private rented accommodation before moving into Jo’s parents’ house in Archway in order to save a deposit. “We had given up hope of being able to buy for at least a couple of years,” says Savell, 23, who works as an IT manager for a publishing company in Richmond.
Then the couple found out about My Choice HomeBuy, a government initiative allowing buyers with a joint income of below £60,000 to take out a low-interest equity loan as a mortgage top-up, thereby avoiding the need for a deposit.
© Carl Gueringham
They chose Kennet Island, a new 72-acre quarter on the edge of Reading, now considered a cool city. Jo and Savell bought a two-bedroom flat for £185,000. “We’re thrilled. We’ve got our own place at a manageable cost.”
More than 1,000 homes are planned at Kennet Island, a former Thames Water site, which will have one million square foot of commercial space. One- and two-bedroom flats will be released in the autumn. Prices in the current phase start at £235,000 for three-bedroom houses. Call 01189 313550.
Several global companies have a European headquarters in Reading, which is the Thames Valley business capital. The town has quick access to Heathrow and the M4, and Reading to Paddington by train takes 30 minutes.
With My Choice HomeBuy, the low-interest loan has a rate of 1.75 per cent and can be for between 15 and 50 per cent of the purchase price. Buyers own the property outright and repay the loan when the property is sold, by which time the property’s value is expected to have risen.
An area set for huge expansion
Milton Keynes, Hertfordshire
The most affordable commuter town in the Home Counties, according to a study by the Mortgage Advice Bureau based on the cost of local housing and the amount travellers need to spend on rail fares. Fast trains into Euston take less than 40 minutes.
When conceived in the Sixties, Milton Keynes was deliberately located equidistant between London and Birmingham with the intention of it becoming a major regional centre in its own right. That goal is now being realised. The area is set for huge expansion. About 70,000 new homes are due to be built over the next 20 years.
The town centre was never intended to be densely residential, more a business and shopping district, but planning priorities have changed and big apartment schemes are sprouting up on the doorstep of the train station.
Flats priced from £140,000 (or £35,000 for a 25 per cent share) are for sale at Axcess MK, a development by Genesis Homes. Call Knight Frank on 01908 302932.
Wolverton Park, just north of Milton Keynes, prospered from the early Victorian era when it became the main staging post for steam locomotives making their way north from the capital.
Royal trains were serviced and built there into the Seventies but the old sheds and engineering workshops fell into decline and were in danger of wholesale demolition.
Several listed structures have been rescued as part of the redevelopment into an estate of 300 homes plus a velodrome and park. The site runs alongside the Grand Union Canal. Prices start at £140,000. Shared ownership is an option. Call Places for People on 01908 319748.
Holborough lakes, Kent
This has the benefit of a rural setting - a former quarry site where New England-style homes overlook lakes and a nature reserve - yet is close to Ebbsfleet International train station and will get a boost from the new high-speed domestic train services between Kent and London, due to start in December 2009.
Two-bedroom flats cost from £139,995. They are small, 611sq ft, but the price is attractive. For more information, call Berkeley Homes on 01634 244666.