Essex, Bedfordshire and Kent:five commuter areas where family houses are still priced the same as London flats

Join the London families leaving their flats for houses they can afford, a do-able commute away.

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Nearly 66,000 Londoners in their thirties quit the capital last year — enough to pack the Royal Albert Hall a dozen times over.

Most headed for the home counties. If you plan to join their ranks and you want the best value for your money, there are places where you can still get a family house for the price of a London flat.

WALTHAM ABBEY, ESSEX

What it costs: expect to pay an average £304,415, up an impressive 29.4 per cent since 2014. An average house in the town costs £355,000, and a flat would typically cost £196,000 (source: Savills).

Top schools: four of the five primary schools, and King Harold Business & Enterprise Academy, for seniors, get a “good” Ofsted rating.

The commute: trains from Waltham Cross, a mile and a half east of Waltham Abbey, take 28 minutes to reach Liverpool Street. An annual season ticket costs £1,872.

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Good-looking: Waltham Abbey (Daniel Lynch)

Who would it suit? Waltham Abbey is a good-looking refuge for City workers. The pedestrianised town centre is cute, with lovely half-timbered buildings around the market square.

And the downsides? Although the town centre is charming, most of Waltham Abbey’s housing is inter-war and rather dull. Its current crop of housing developments are not lifting standards much.

SANDY, BEDFORDSHIRE

What it costs: the average property is priced at £231,193, up almost 25 per cent in the past two years. A typical house would cost £194,000, while an average flat would set you back almost £98,000, says Savills.

Top schools: there’s not a sink school in sight, and Everton Lower School and Wrestlingworth CofE VC Lower School get top marks from the Government schools watchdog. Sandy Place Academy, for seniors, gets a “good” Ofsted report.

The commute: from 47 minutes to King’s Cross. An annual season ticket costs £4,764.

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Nice small town feel: Sandy (Alamy Stock Photo)

Who would it suit? Small town types. Sandy is a market town with a high street full of old-school independent shops.

“It has got a really nice small town, community feel,” says Matthew Drew, office manager at local estate agents Kennedy & Co. “It is quiet and peaceful — there are some nice little pubs but if you are looking for extensive nightlife you won’t find it here.”

The local countryside is pretty, particularly Sandy Hills, a former sand quarry which is now an open space with marvellous panoramic views.

And the downsides? There are a few Victorian cottages dotted around Sandy but most of its housing stock is post war, so you are far more likely to find yourself living in a Nineties estate house than a cottage with roses around the door.

SOUTHEND-ON-SEA, ESSEX

What it costs: the town’s average sale price is £198,777, up almost 19 per cent in two years. Houses sell for an average of £204,000, and flats for £128,000, says Savills.

Top schools: Southend High School for Girls, and for Boys, are both “outstanding” by Ofsted’s standards. Bournes Green Junior School also gets a top report.

The commute: from 55 minutes to Fenchurch Street. An annual season ticket costs £4,648.

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Regeneration hotspot: Southend (Alamy Stock Photo)

Who would it suit? Those who love the sea air and are willing to overlook the fact that the town centre is slightly down-at-heel. However, Southend is finally getting the regeneration investment it needs, including a £50 million seafront facelift, and is becoming increasingly popular with ex-Londoners. Leigh-on-Sea, three miles west of the centre, is getting a nice urban village feel with boutiques and bars.

And the downsides? Prices are generally affordable but if you want to live on the seafront there are no bargains — you will have to pay well over £1 million for a house.

BROADSTAIRS, KENT

What it costs: an average home costs £266,257, up almost 17 per cent in the last two years. A typical house is priced at £244,000 and a flat at £162,000 (source: Savills).

Top schools: Ramsgate, Holy Trinity Church of England Primary School is considered “outstanding” by Ofsted. However The Charles Dickens School (seniors) is “inadequate” which will be a problem for pupils who don’t win a place at one of Kent’s fantastic grammar schools.

The commute: from an hour and 20 minutes to St Pancras. An annual season ticket costs £5,228.

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Quintessential British seaside: Broadstairs (Alamy Stock Photo)

Who would it suit? Nostalgic types. Broadstairs is quintessential British seaside and has ridden out the rise of the package holiday with dignity. Think sandy beaches (there are several with Blue Flags), weekends at surf school, and eating ice-cream or fish and chips on the prom. There are some nice art galleries to explore in town, and good walking along cliff top paths.

Broadstairs comes alive in summer with annual food and folk festivals, a week-long Dickens festival (the author holidayed in Broadstairs) and lots of kids’ events. Broadstairs’ tourist appeal means the town has plenty of pubs and restaurants, and also a family-run cinema.

Simon Backhouse of Strutt & Parker said Broadstairs attracts commuters who don’t have to be in the office day in day out. “In saying that, the hip vibe and value for money has attracted more young family buyers in the past few years,” he said. “It’s becoming on the radar for Londoners as one of the nice Kent coastal towns.

“What I think makes this town really special is the lovely little bays and enclosed sandy beaches dotted around it, like Joss Bay and Botany Bay.”

And the downsides? That slow commute and heavy summer traffic.

HYTHE, KENT

What it costs: the current average house price is £293,412, up 22.5 per cent in two years. Houses cost an average of £318,000 and flats come in at £196,000 (source: Savills).

Top schools: Seabrook Church of England Primary School and Saltwood CofE Primary School lead Southend’s quality primary school offering. For seniors The Norton Knatchbull School gets a “good” write up from Ofsted, and there are (selective) grammar schools to try for in Folkestone.

The commute: the nearest station is Folkestone, 4.5 miles down the coast. Using the high speed rail link via Ashford, trains to King’s Cross take 54 minutes. An annual season ticket costs £6,836.

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Near Romney Marsh: Hythe (Alamy Stock Photo)

Who would it suit? Those who want to live on the fringes of lovely Romney Marsh. A weekend walking the tow path of the Royal Military Canal which winds through the marsh will certainly blow the cobwebs away.

Hythe has the kind of Victorian and Edwardian housing that costs a fortune in London, good independent shops, and a fine pebbly beach.

With this in mind when High Speed 1 was launched speeding rail services from Kent to London Julian Alexander, director of Alexander Fleming, said Hythe braced itself for “half of London to move down”.

So far, however, the great exodus hasn’t happened. Part of the reason for this is the longish and very expensive commute and Alexander also blames a general lack of awareness of Hythe’s charms. “The lifestyle we have here is outstanding,” he said. “The air is clean, there is very little crime, the quality of the property is excellent.”

And the downsides? Hythe is hugely popular with retirees and has a bit of a bingo-playing early-night vibe. “But things are beginning to change,” said Alexander. “We have a Costa on the High Street now and we have a Waitrose. That is a big change for Hythe.”


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