Last November Octavia Coates returned to London after four years living and working in Ibiza and was shocked by the big increase in rents. It was a rude awakening.
© Tony Buckingham
"I started looking for a flat in London the day I got back— and the prices were just insane," she says.
"I looked at one tiny studio in Hampstead with a pull-down bed — it was so small that when you were sleeping your head would be by the oven. It cost £1,200 a month and that didn't include bills. I didn't want to spend half my salary on renting a tiny flat," recalls Octavia, who handles public relations for hairdresser Nicky Clarke.
She was familiar with King's Lynn since her grandparents had lived there, and after some deliberation decided to look for a home in the Norfolk town.
"I found a two-bedroom apartment about two minutes from the station in a 15th-century former monastery with sea views, and for £400 a month it was mine," she says. Two months later she is commuting two or three days into London each week and working from home on the other days. The journey takes an hour and a half, and the ticket return is £20.
She adds: "If I want to go to the West End theatre I can still get home afterwards.
I have joined the local gym, friends come for the weekend as I have room, the beach is 15 minutes away and the restaurants are great.
"Marco Pierre White is opening here, the food markets are fun and I know so many people."
That renters get more for their money out of town, but under an hour from London, is indisputable. You could swap an average two-bedroom flat in Clapham — which would rent at about £1,754 a month — for a four-bedroom house in Berkhamsted (£1,649) or Oxford (£1,627), though the costs of the longer commute have to be added.
If you like city living you can swap a two-bedroom flat in Earls Court (at an average £3,268 a month) for a four-bedroom house in Oxford for almost exactly half the price (£1,627).
Lucy Putnam, 27, wanted to get on the property ladder and moved out of her three-bedroom flat in Stoke Newington, which she shared for £700 a month, so she could start saving. She now shares a two-bedroom cottage in Alton, Hampshire, with her boyfriend and her share of the rent is £325.
"It is very relaxing , we have a garden and loads more space, and if I stay late in London I stay with friends, but there are late trains," she says. Her daily commute to work as a music agent takes an hour and 15 minutes and an annual season ticket costs £3,592.
"We go to the pub, go for walks… it is a really nice contrast after working all week in the city," she says.
Another key reason that London renters are looking further afield is the exponential growth in rents over the past year. According to Savills, average asking prices in the capital rose by an inflation-busting 7.2 per cent in the capital last year compared with 3.3 per cent in the South East generally.