Fare rises of up to an inflation-busting 10 per cent are a compelling reason for commuters to consider living closer to the office. For many employees travelling into the capital on a daily basis, train costs are the highest financial outlay after their mortgage or rent.
Annual season tickets often cost more than £5,000. Even those who already live in London have had to face a 4.2 per cent rise in Tube and bus fares, and now typically spend £969 a year on travelling to work.
While living in the capital’s main business districts is likely to be beyond the budget of most first-time buyers, conveniently located cheaper homes on the fringe of the West End, City and Canary Wharf are available to buy and rent.
Start your search in the “outer ring” just beyond the congestion charge zone, where it is still possible to find good-value pockets of the inner city, some very much on the up and worthwhile investing in.
© Jeremy Selwyn
Areas falling into this catchment include Whitechapel, Shadwell, Kilburn, Deptford, Brockley, Bethnal Green, Bow, Rotherhithe, New Cross, Peckham, Walworth and Oval.
Most people are happy to walk to work if it takes no more than 30 minutes — quicker if jogging or on a Boris bike. You can get fit and save money at the same time.
Well connected Kilburn
Kilburn (NW6) property prices are quite a bit lower than other inner north-west London postcodes and the area is nearer to the centre than, say, Hammersmith or Hackney.
“It’s definitely a place to watch if you are looking for a well-connected home in the capital,” says Jackie Sadek, chief executive of UK Regeneration, an agency set up by government. “It is brilliantly located and has a good-humoured and diverse community.”
Four housing associations — Catalyst, Genesis, Network, and London & Quadrant — are working with Brent council to redevelop South Kilburn council estate, bulldozing Sixties tower blocks and bringing architectural variety and 3,000 new homes, for rent, shared ownership and outright sale.
Kilburn Wells, the first of the new neighbourhoods, comprises two apartment schemes — Watling Place and Bourne Place, and is close to Queen’s Park station. Prices from £284,950. Call 0844 406 9294.
The Boris factor
Boris bike docks (which stretch from Lambeth to Hackney and from Southwark to Maida Vale) are causing property ripples around Tube stations in more affordable areas on the fringe of the car congestion zone, as cyclists can take advantage of the 30-minute free-of-charge period to get to work and back, says estate agent Ludlow Thompson.
New Cross, SE14, is an underrated close-in address. For years the area’s only two attractions have been Goldsmiths College (where Damien Hirst studied fine art) and The Venue, a lively nightclub. But things are changing with neighbourhood action programmes improving the fabric of the area.
“People want to live there now, rather than have to,” according to Mike Bickerton of property consultant DTZ, which is scouting for sites in the area on behalf of developers.
Creatives, young singles and couples — not just key workers, but Canary Wharf and City types, too — are moving in. There are five-minute trains to London Bridge and a quick link to Shoreditch on the East London line.
Just launched is The Grove, Avonley Road, where shared-ownership flats are priced from £73,000 for a 40 per cent share. Call Hyde housing association on 0845 606 1221.
'I was commuting from Essex. Now I’ve bought in zone two'
For three years, physiotherapist Steve Tolan, 32, commuted from his parent’s home in Essex to his Holborn workplace while looking to get on the property ladder in north London. The latter proved too expensive so he crossed the river to search in cheaper SE postcodes, eventually finding an affordable address on the Deptford/Greenwich border.
He bought a shared ownership flat at Brooklyn Apartments, a new apartment complex a short walk from Greenwich town centre and the leafy open space of Blackheath. Prices start at £77,000 for a 35 per cent share. Call Family Mosaic housing association on 020 7089 1315.
“It’s remarkably close to central London, about four miles to Charing Cross,” says Mr Tolan. “Cycling to work is an option but the public transport is excellent and not too expensive because it’s zone two.”
Nearby Central Park is another council estate regeneration project, set to bring 1,200 new homes around landscaped squares. One-bedroom flats cost from £69,125 for a 35 per cent share (full price, £197,500), with total monthly outgoings - mortgage, rent and service charges - costing from £769.41. Visit centralparkliving.co.uk.