New country homes along the commuter routes tipped for house price growth
The nation’s two-tier housing market — London and the rest — has opened a window of opportunity for those making the move from the capital to the commuter belt or country. As London prices remain buoyant, now is the time to cash in and make your move to the suburbs or shires. But wherever you go location is still king, and there are few bargains to be had in those “corridors of wealth” leading from the capital to the countryside and coast. So begin to think of the next best location if you are in search of more space and an opportunity for capital growth.
New research by Savills has identified several good “commuter clusters” offering what most people are looking for — a well-designed, low-maintenance home, countryside, pretty villages, quick train times and good schools.
Savills predicts that within five years, locations along certain routes will rise in popularity and value as house prices recover and the price divide narrows.
COMMUTER TRAIN ROUTES FROM LONDON TIPPED FOR HOUSE PRICE GROWTH OVER NEXT FIVE YEARS:
* Beaconsfield to Marylebone: (surprisingly for such an expensive town) journey time from 33 minutes;
* Chelmsford to Liverpool Street: journey time from 34 minutes;
* Guildford to Waterloo: journey time from 37 minutes;
* Haywards Heath to Victoria/London Bridge: journey time from 42 minutes;
* Cambridge to King’s Cross/Liverpool Street: journey time from 48 minutes;
* Tunbridge Wells to Charing Cross or Cannon Street: journey time from 50 minutes;
* Newbury to Paddington: journey time from 51 minutes;
* Winchester to Waterloo: journey time 58 minutes.
The big question on the lips of those contemplating The Great Move Out is whether buying a bigger house for less money further down the line compensates for the hassle of a longer and more expensive commute. And if we decide it does, what do we buy? Research shows that Londoners looking for quality of life and value for money do not want a rural wreck. They would like a home with character but with low energy bills.
All would prefer a new home with a well thought-out design. “Often buyers are nervous about moving out of the capital, fearing limited housing choice and inferior design, but the home counties market has really matured,” says David Smith, sales director of developer Octagon.
Country conversions: barns, stables and mill conversions
Developers and landowners are responding to the growing demands Londoners make. But as long as the design suits, they are willing to be charmed by “country cool” conversions. Consequently, farmers are converting barns, stable blocks, mills and hop kilns — the rural equivalent of London’s factory lofts. Barns have plenty of scope for dramatic open-plan interiors overlooking pastures and meadows.
Conversions: grand homes, former hospitals and barracks
For those in search of something to impress their friends, there are plenty of mansions being split into grand apartments, the grounds re-landscaped and a modern-day spa added. Redundant hospitals, colleges, barracks, convents and sporting estates are providing a steady supply of new properties in attractive parkland, green belt or bordering golf courses. Often such developments are within the M25, meaning buyers don’t have to choose between a convenient commuting spot and isolated country splendour.
The game plan: good-value homes with an easy commute
Buyers are thinking ahead, and buying off-plan to secure the home they want while they sort out schools and organise their move out. “Most families want good value, a good commute, a quick dash to the station and an easy school run,” says Jonathan Cranley, of Millgate Homes. Millgate is an award-winning company focusing in the western home counties. Its Easter launches included Victoria Mews, a scheme of three- and four-bedroom semis in the village of Wargrave, Berkshire — prices from £649,950 — and Alderbourne Place, Gerrards Cross, where eight imposing country houses and four townhouses are priced from £900,000. Call 0118 934 3344.
An hour is long enough
Hertfordshire has pockets of expensive executive housing but no real equivalent to Ascot or Weybridge, which means that family homes are cheaper than in Berkshire or Surrey. The growth of Luton and Stansted airports is another attraction for some. With more flights to more places, they can avoid the trek around the M25 to Heathrow or Gatwick.
Moreover, the M11 corridor is becoming as important for business as the M4 corridor. At one end is Cambridge, with its hi-tech industries, and at the other end is Docklands and Canary Wharf.
Few properties set the heart racing as much as homes in prized heritage buildings. Conversions with classic good looks always impress and buyers’ appetite for them is unsatisfied.
The Chapel is the latest unveiling at The Galleries, a listed former Victorian asylum in Brentwood, Essex, painstakingly restored by conversion specialist City & Country. The former place of worship has been transformed into a stunning 2,700sq ft double-height duplex priced at £950,000. Other apartments start at £245,000. Call 01277 202122.
Another Easter launch was the Dowding Suite, a 2,335sq ft triplex at Bentley Priory, famously the headquarters of Fighter Command during the Second World War. The listed 18th-century mansion and its 57 acres occupy an elevated position in Harrow with sweeping, far-reaching views of the capital. The triplex show apartment costs £2.25 million. Other apartments have mezzanines, double-height reception rooms, tall windows and roof terraces. One home is being created in a clock tower. Call 020 8954 5959.
Good Kentish commutes
Kentish towns are benefiting from improved train links such as HS1 and ambitious development projects, yet are still relatively good value.
Canterbury used to be considered outside the commuter belt but journey times to London have been reduced from 102 minutes to under an hour.
Medway Renaissance is a co-ordinated project aiming to transform eight miles of riverfront, linking Chatham, Rochester, Rainham and Strood into an 8,000-home “linear city”. Having 780 listed buildings and 26 conservation areas, the towns are lobbying for Unesco World Heritage status.
Docklands-style waterfront living has arrived at Chatham Maritime, the former naval dockyard. Just launched is Marina Point West, a 21-storey tower with 120 apartments priced from £139,950 for one-bedroom flats. Call 01634 890594.