Young Londoners unable to get on the property ladder because of the capital's high prices are heading for the commuter belt at a time when out-of-town developers are trimming prices and offering incentives, even in areas where transport upgrades have reduced journey times.
Home ownership is up to 53 per cent cheaper in some well-connected commuter towns, according to property analyst CB Richard Ellis.
Basildon, Essex, which is 37 minutes by train from Fenchurch Street station, is the most affordable of the South East's commuter towns, with average monthly mortgage and travel costs amounting to £1,129. Luton, Gravesend, Crawley and Harlow offer similar "discounts". By contrast, living in Beaconsfield or Sevenoaks costs about 30 per cent more than living in London.
Basildon's low-cost status comes at a time when the town is getting a £1 billion regeneration boost - up to 1,900 new homes, over one million sq ft of office, retail and leisure space.
Property prices are lowest in Luton (£148,872 on average against £164,379 in Basildon) but commuting costs are more expensive. In general, house prices decline steadily as travel times to the capital increase - the further out, the cheaper they are. But there are more distant places with affordable property and efficient commuter links that make relocating from the capital worthwhile.
Milton Keynes, for example, has fast trains to Euston that take less than 40 minutes. Big apartment schemes are sprouting up on the doorstep of the town's train station and Network Rail is bringing 3,000 new jobs as it relocates its HQ there. A Barratt development called Vizion - visually bold, colourful with lots of glass - has generous-size balconies and a communal roof garden. Resales from about £175,000, according to Knight Frank, which has opened a city centre branch.
Ten-acre Wolverton Park, on the fringe of Milton Keynes, has scooped an international urban design award. There are 300 new homes, including townhouses and mews houses, created within the fabric of former train sheds. All properties overlook a new velodrome and park at the centre of the development, and some have views over the Grand Union Canal, which runs alongside the site. Prices start at £168,000 for a one-bedroom apartment, with shared-ownership options from £76,500.
Places for People, a housing association developer, also helps low-budget first-time buyers by providing 10-year interest-free equity loans for 30 per cent of the purchase price, and 100 per cent mortgages. The organisation has its own pool of money and says it has 14 different finance methods to help buyers purchase a property. Call 01908 319748. Show homes are open for viewing seven days a week.
'I wanted to buy into an area with upside and promise'
Insurance broker Ben Simpson, 30, bought a two-bedroom flat at new Basildon town centre scheme Axis. "I grew up locally and have seen the town improve. I wanted to buy into an area with upside and promise. I work in the City and the commute is effortless. I'll keep the flat as an investment if and when I move on." Ben used Barratt's shared-equity scheme, which requires a deposit of only five per cent - in his case £8,000. Axis prices start at £127,995. Call 01245 232222.