Cash in on the London 'value gap' - the hot new commuter homes this spring

Buyers moving out of London seek three vital ingredients: a manageable commute, a good-value home, and an easy school run. We uncover the hot new commuter homes this spring.
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From £562,500: homes at Kings Hill, an 800-acre estate in West Malling, Kent, where amenities include a cricket pitch. Call 01732 848316


A window of opportunity has opened for spring sellers moving from the capital to the commuter belt or the countryside. The Office for National Statistics reports that London prices have jumped 17 per cent in a year, and the “value gap” between the capital and the provinces has never been wider.

This means now is a good time to pocket some profit while nabbing extra space with a move to the suburbs or shires. Despite “corridors of wealth” along commuter routes leading from the capital to the countryside, family homes are cheaper outside London.

Most couples moving out seek three vital ingredients — a manageable commute, a good-value home, and an easy school run. Estate agents say buyers are happy to buy off-plan if it guarantees the type of new home they desire while giving them time to plan ahead, getting schools sorted before they arrive.

Jonathan Cranley of developer Millgate Homes, which focuses on prestige addresses in the western home counties, says: “Buyers want a low-maintenance, brand-new property with architectural distinction and spacious, open-plan layouts.” 

Local planners are encouraging such designs, while across the South-East region, developers and landowners are responding to the growing demand for better architecture. 

Spurred by relaxed planning rules they are converting rural buildings and creating new homes with dramatic open-plan interiors overlooking pastures and meadows. Run-down mansions are being split into grand apartments, the grounds re-landscaped and a modern-day spa or tennis courts added. Redundant hospitals, colleges, barracks, convents and sporting estates are also providing a steady supply of new properties in park land, green belt or bordering golf courses, often within the M25.
 
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From £330,000:
homes at Orchard Gate, a new countryside hamlet in East Malling, Kent. Call 01732 448270
Happiness is A home in a new Kent hamlet
Redundant Twenties horticultural research laboratories at East Malling, Kent, have been given a new lease of life, redeveloped as Orchard Gate, 37 homes built from reclaimed materials to give the sense that the homes have grown organically over time.
“This is one of those rare moments when we can play a part in creating a new hamlet within the Kent countryside and at the same time ensure the future productivity of the surrounding orchards and fruit farms that are synonymous with the county,” says Jeff Elliot, deputy managing director of Millwood Designer Homes, which has joined forces with a local charitable trust to revive the site and neighbouring land. Terrace and detached eco-friendly houses with allotments are priced from £330,000. Call 01732 448270.

Country parks and a 49-minute commute
A former Royal Air Force base at West Malling in Kent is now an 800-acre estate designed with a mix of so-called “vernacular” house types plus amenities including a golf course, cricket pitch, country park, schools, convenience stores, a Waitrose supermarket, pub, vet and restaurants. The centrepiece of the town square is an original Art Deco control tower, currently being refurbished to provide office space.

Called Kings Hill, opinion seems split as to whether it is a soulless Stepford Wives-style estate or a model new town, but it is popular nonetheless. Clusters of housing are sprinkled around the estate, and green builder Environ is one of several targeting London commuters — the scheduled train journey to London Victoria is 49 minutes. Keeper’s Court is a scheme of four- and five-bedroom houses with double-height entrance hall, cathedral ceilings in the master bedroom and pocket doors that allow living areas to be opened up.
There is even a large “bonus” room in the loft, reached by an electric staircase that drops down at the touch of a switch. Prices from £562,500. Call 01732 848316.
  • View sold house prices in West Malling
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  • View property values in West Malling
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From £499,950:
18 new houses set within the private grounds of Seaford College, Petworth. Call 01428 734017
Breaking down barriers
The Surrey village of Hindhead used to be a cut-off point for London commuters because of the long traffic jams at the junction of the A3 London to Portsmouth road — but no longer.

A new 1.2-mile tunnel burrowed beneath Hindhead solved the snarl-ups as well as preserving the Devil’s Punch Bowl, a dramatic natural amphitheatre listed as a Site of Special Scientific Interest. Easier commuting is causing property ripples further south in attractive country areas such as Petersfield,  Petworth and Midhurst.

Lavington Park is a scheme of 18 new houses designed by noted Sussex architect Neil Holland set within the private grounds of Seaford College, Petworth, part of the South Downs National Park. Prices from £499,950. Call Strutt & Parker on 01428 734017.
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£3.6 million:
Chart Ridge, a spectacular modern mansion, at Trevereux Hill in Surrey
Trevereux Hill, near Oxted in Surrey, is where a fabulous, ultra-modern detached mansion with sweeping North Downs views sits confidently alongside a cluster of six more traditional-design luxury flats and two five-bedroom houses. Millgate Homes’ spectacular gated property, Chart Ridge, has five bedroom suites, an outdoor infinity pool, south-facing garden, first-floor balcony, a triple garage and a vista spanning three counties. The interiors are a modernist showcase, with free-flowing open-plan spaces and glass walls. Price £3.6 million. Call 01883 716404.
Knightsbridge style out of town
Once known as the stockbroker belt, the area between Oxshott, Weybridge and Esher in Surrey is fast becoming Kensington in the country, with a new generation of luxurious homes offering all the creature comforts for buyers who can’t stretch to Knightsbridge prices.

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From £1.25 million: apartments in gated grounds at Number One Oxshott in Surrey
These buyers want modern yet traditional-looking homes in quiet roads away from railway lines and flight paths, but close enough to amenities such as golf and tennis clubs. Number One Oxshott is a 10-apartment scheme near the high street and train station, with its 35-minute journey to Waterloo. There is also secure basement parking for the Bentley. From £1.25 million. Call 01883 621122. It is one of the last developments of its kind in Elmbridge borough as a new planning rule requires schemes of more than four homes to include 40 per cent affordable housing.
Cobham, part of the same territory, has a spot-the-celebrity high street because of its local Chelsea FC training ground and rock star residents. Detached houses at Fairmile Gate boast a feature spiral staircase, a light-filled atrium and a giant “super-room” combining kitchen, dining and living areas and opening on to the garden. From £2.7 million. Call 01932 506800.

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