Commuter homes in West Sussex: the UK's sunniest county offers good-value homes within 60 minutes of London

Savvy commuters are heading to the market towns that are within an hour of London and enjoying excellent price growth...

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West Sussex is the UK’s sunniest county, notching up more than 1,900 hours of the bright stuff even in an average year, says the Met Office. It also has delicious little towns and rich, rolling countryside, but its slightly trundling commuter links to London mean it is often overlooked in favour of neighbouring East Sussex.

In fact, it is perfectly possible to get from the centre of London to one of West Sussex’s nice market towns within an hour — although a coastal life would certainly take a little longer. And as well as being within commuting distance, exclusive research by Knight Frank shows these market towns are now enjoying excellent price growth.

Value in East Grinstead 
Top of the heap is East Grinstead, where property prices have jumped by 16.1 per cent — putting most of London to shame — to an average £307,916.
Trains to Victoria take just under an hour and an annual season ticket costs a relatively reasonable £2,488.

Another East Grinstead bonus is its schools. Baldwins Hill and St Mary’s CofE are among a range of primary schools rated “good” by Ofsted. For seniors, Imberhorne School is rated “outstanding”.

East Grinstead is on the edge of the High Weald and close to Ashdown Forest. It is also close to the Surrey borders, which is reflected both in its high street — wall to wall toddler boutiques, coffee shops and pretty florists — and in its housing: East Grinstead has its share of trophy mansions with pools and electric gates.
Simon Lewis, manager of Humberts estate agents in the town, says the dreadful parking around Haywards Heath station, about 45 minutes by train from Victoria, is driving people to look more closely at East Grinstead. 

The other incomers to East Grinstead are a regular flow of Scientologists, keen to be close to the church’s UK headquarters just outside the town. Compared with London, East Grinstead’s pricing is keen.

A two-bedroom flat near the station would cost between £250,000 and £275,000, a three-bedroom Victorian semi about £325,000 to £350,000 and a four-bedroom detached executive home would cost from about £500,000 to £550,000. At the top end, one of East Grinstead’s Surrey-style mansions would be priced at about £1.25 million for a five-bedroom property.

Arty Chichester 
Another strong West Sussex market town to consider is Chichester, which has seen a post-recessional bounce back of 19 per cent. Average prices here stand at £275,633. 

On the plus side, Chichester is a  ravishing option with a historic town centre, some lovely Georgian houses, and a thriving array of pubs, bars and restaurants, plus a first-rate annual arts festival, a film festival, and a fabulous theatre, which has been rebuilt.

The South Downs and the beach at West Wittering are nearby. Sailing fans will be in their element, with several active clubs to choose from. 

Local schools include Bishop Luffa Church of England School and St Richard’s Catholic Primary School, which are both rated “outstanding” by Ofsted. But it has an hour-and-a-half commute to Victoria and the cost of an annual season ticket is £5,273. 
For those who fancy living in the historic heart of Chichester, the Pallant, close to the cathedral, is full of Georgian houses. However, Tim Ash, senior negotiator at Strutt & Parker, estimates that a three-bedroom duplex flat here would cost about £800,000, while a fine six- to seven-bedroom double-fronted townhouse might set you back £3 million.

For budget family homes — parking and gardens are both scarce in the centre — look at Westgate, outside the city walls, but an easy walk in. Buyers here could pick up a modern three-bedroom townhouse for about £700,000 or a four-bedroom detached family home for about £800,000. Chichester’s  distance from London means there aren’t a lot of daily commuters, but it draws in downsizers from Surrey.


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