The top commuter town to watch:Harlow in Essex outperforms London's top property spots

With average house prices of £220k and outstanding schools, families are finding their way to Harlow.

A new town built for Londoners made homeless in the Blitz and derided by critics of post-war architecture has become a surprising star destination for commuters.

House prices in Harlow, Essex, rose 17 per cent last year thanks to its cracking schools, good-value property, pretty old town and 34-minute commute to London.

According to exclusive research by Savills on locations along the line from London to King’s Lynn in Norfolk — setting off from either Liverpool Street or King’s Cross — Harlow has outperformed not only the capital, but also better-known commuter hotspots such as Bishop’s Stortford.

With average prices of £219,459, it is also seriously affordable, even when the £3,400 yearly cost of a season ticket is taken into account. “Harlow has performed spectacularly in the past eight months,” says Paul Brooker, managing director of estate agents Howick & Brooker.

“It has always been good value for money. It’s close to the M11 and M25 and it has easy rail routes into London. Up to £300,000, the market is mainly local buyers, but we are also seeing an influx of buyers cashing in from the north and east London suburbs and buying a bigger house in Harlow.”

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Harlow has an old town brimming with period houses and country pubs, and a history dating to the 11th century.

New Harlow, by contrast, is an invention of the optimistic post-war era, with plentiful open spaces, a road system designed for universal car ownership, and an impressive cycle network. The downside is its swathes of badly designed, uninspiring, boxy homes.

On the eastern side, Newhall is a modern development of about 3,000 strikingly modern houses. Linden Homes set the standard there when it hired Stirling Prize-winning architect Alison Brooks to design 85 timber-clad homes.

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Plentiful local schools include popular primaries, with senior options that include Burnt Mill Academy, rated “outstanding” by Ofsted.

Christopher Gollins, sales and lettings manager at Martin & Co, says the market is looking buoyant, with both first-time buyers and upsizers searching for homes. Much of “new” Harlow’s housing stock was built in the Sixties. These homes are not pretty, but they are a good size and affordable — about £170,000 for a two-bedroom flat or between £350,000 and £360,000 for a four-bedroom house.

The Newhall neighbourhood is a little more expensive — a reflection of its quality design. A four-bedroom house in this ongoing development would cost from £450,000.

Old Harlow is full of Victorian cottages and a three-bedroom end-of-terrace property here would cost about £300,000, while a five-bedroom detached modern house with a large garden could go up to about £850,000.

Up to five miles east of Harlow are several good villages, including Matching Tye. “It is a quintessential Essex village, with a green and good pub,” says agent Paul Brooker. Prices start at about £350,000 for an ex-local authority three-bedroom house, while £800,000 will buy a period four-bedroom house. Grand manor houses in a couple of acres can fetch up to £2.5 million.


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