The ripple effect of buyers flowing out from central London in search of more affordable property is beginning to shine a spotlight on Zone 5 and 6 - where young families can pick up a four bedroom house for the same price of a more central studio flat.
Surbiton: a well-connected riverside spot
In The Good Life TV series, Margot and Jerry sneered over the fence at their grow-your-own neighbours Tom and Barbara and Surbiton became an icon of suburban living. Its mixture of grand Victorian villas (many divided into flats), Art Deco purpose built flats, and 20th century semis – just like those in The Good Life – make it a fertile hunting ground for first time buyers.
It is also brilliantly easy commute – trains take from 19 minutes to reach Waterloo Station which slightly sweetens the lack of seats at rush hour. “People come here from places like Wimbledon and Clapham for the trains – the last train from Waterloo is at 1.05am,” says Samuel McCready, senior negotiator at Hawes & Co.
He estimates that a typical one bedroom flat close to the station would cost around £375,000 and a two bedroom property around £500,000.
Many first time buyers, of course, need houses, and McCready advises looking a little further south, towards Tolworth, where three bedroom homes are priced at around £600,000 and £700,000.
In true Good Life style Surbiton is a self-sufficient sort of suburb: along Victoria Road there is a comprehensive if not particularly exciting range of supermarkets, shops and chain restaurants. For more kerb appeal, head to Maple Road, with its independent cafes and restaurants.
Proximity to the River Thames is a plus point, bringing with it the promise of sunny afternoons drinking cold beers at The Harts Boatyard, or learning to handle a boat at the Thames Sailing Club or the London River Yacht Club. Hampton Court Park is just across the river and schools are of a uniformly high standard.
McCready says Kingston University London means there are plenty of young renters giving the area a bit of a buzz. “There is good nightlife in Kingston...we are not one of your snooty south west London commuter towns,” he adds.
Bush Hill Park: a leafy north London enclave
One of those leafy suburbs which north London does so well, Bush Hill Park, just south of Enfield, has is an oasis of streets of classic Victorian and Edwardian houses.
There is, of course, the eponymous park, plus a golf course, and train services to Liverpool Street take just over half an hour, making Bush Hill Park a popular option for City workers.
Three bedroom Victorian semis and terraces are priced at around £550,000 to £600,000. Two bedroom period conversion flats are priced at around £400,000, while more modern purpose built two bedroom flats come in cheaper at around £350,000.
The local schools include Bush Hill Park Primary School and The Raglan Junior School, both rated “good” by Ofsted.
The compromise here is that – other than a slightly dispiriting clutch of basic shops around the station – there’s not much going on in Bush Hill Park. Enfield, with a larger although no more thrilling selection of shops, is within walking distance. But for genuine café culture you’re going to need get on the (direct) train to Stoke Newington or London Fields.
Sean Carson, owner of Craigs Estate Agents, said most people moving into the area from outside tend to come from more expensive north London enclaves like Crouch End or Muswell Hill. “For the price of a flat there they can buy a three bedroom house here,” he said.
Like many areas there is a posh, and a not so posh, side of Bush Hill Park. West of the railway line homes on streets like Wellington Road exchange hands for seven figure sums. To the east the smaller Victorian terraces and ex local authority flats are considerably cheaper.
Wallington: top schools and fast commutes
There are three reasons to move to Wallington. Education, education, education.
This unassuming suburb on the fringes of Kent is home to no less than three top-performing state grammar schools - Wilson’s School (boys), Wallington Boys, and Wallington Girls – which attract ambitious parents from all over London (and beyond).
Families who do manage to get their kids into one of these selective and highly competitive schools have a good choice of property in Wallington, from Victorian to modern. Four bedroom period terraces cost around £480,000 to £500,000. Three bedroom pre-war terraces are priced at around £370,000 to £400,000, while two bedroom cottages typically sell for between £325,000 and £350,000. Two bedroom flats cost between £250,000 and £275,000.
Wallington also ticks the commuter box. Trains to Victoria take from 48 minutes and there are also slightly slower services to London Bridge which take just under an hour.
The compromise here is that there is not a huge amount to do. The local cafes are more of the fry up than the artisanal coffee variety; pubs are boozers not gastro, and the range of shops limited. There are a million chains in nearby Croydon, but for a night out all roads lead back into central London, or Wimbledon.
Reading: Crossrail's on the horizon
For Matt Conner and Alice Mills the experience of moving into their first home last October was especially sweet since the couple have been dating long distance since leaving university.
Rather than throw their wages away on rent – Alice is a primary school teacher and Matt is a cyber security manager – the 26 year olds agreed to live with their parents while they saved for a deposit.
In 2014 they were able to reserve an off plan flat in Skylark House, part of Kennet Island, a Berkeley Homes development close to the Elizabeth Line in Reading. They moved in last October, having paid £245,000 with a ten per cent deposit of £24,500. Their monthly payments are £866.
“We wanted to live together in our first property bought as partners and were willing to live apart short term so we could save up the money needed for our deposit,” said Matt, who has spent the last few years living with his folks in Berkshire.
The couple chose Reading partly because of its commuteability, partly because they were impressed by the range of shops, bars, and restaurants in its burgeoning town centre, and also because of its quick access to open countryside.
Alice, whose family live in Dorset, said the imminent arrival of the Elizabeth Line – formerly known as Crossrail – had sealed their interest in Reading. “We consider our apartment to be a solid financial investment,” she said.
Homes at Brook Drive, the current phase of homes for sale at Kennett Island, start at £258,000 for a one bedroom flat.