Renting has become the norm for a generation of young Londoners locked out of the property market. Only 40 per cent of 25- to 34-year-olds own their own home according to the latest census data.
A shortage of rental property is further punishing those searching for a home but not wishing to share, especially thirty-something renters who are seeking the space and garden that could help them start a family life.
That’s why so many renters are looking further afield. But does commuting make financial sense for them once travel costs are included? Using latest government data on rental prices in London and the commuter belt and travel costs, it is possible to calculate whether the sums add up — especially for sharers simply seeking a room.
five-bedroom house in Guildford, Surrey; and (right) a three-bedroom flat in St John's Wood costs slightly more, at £3,900 a month
If you need a family house in Surrey then this detached three-storey home in Surrey (pictured above left) has five bedrooms, two en suites, underfloor heating, a newly-built orangery and a secluded garden with two patio areas.
But if you want central London then Foxtons (foxtons.co.uk) has a three-bedroom flat in St John's Wood for a similar price (pictured above right). It is in a portered block close to Lords cricket ground and has a balcony.
The average monthly rent per room in Kensington is £738, for example, according to the Valuation Office Agency. With a Zone 1 and 2 travel card this gives a monthly base expenditure rate, based on accommodation and travel, of £854.80.
Opt for pretty Bury St Edmunds and accommodation costs drop to an average £383. But with a monthly season ticket weighing in at £675.50 the monthly total hits £1,058.50 making West Suffolk a less inviting prospect. Commuting from Cambridge is also, on average, more expensive than living in Kensington.
Commuter costs closer to London, but on popular lines, can also be disproportionately high. Tunbridge Wells in Kent, with rental costs of £412 and travel costs of £456.60 total £868.60.
Windsor vs Willesden Green
(Left) £2,200 a month: a three-bedroom duplex apartment in a former convent in Windsor; and (right) £2,120 a month: a three-bedroom flat in Willesden Green
For £2,200 a month you could live in a three-bedroom duplex apartment in a Grade II-listed former convent in Windsor (pictured above left).
Or, for £2,120 a month, opt for a refurbished three-bedroom flat (pictured above right) in Willesden Green available via Kinleigh Folkard and Hayward (kfh.co.uk).
A more economical choice would be Tonbridge, Kent where the average monthly rent per room is £387. The monthly travel cost is just £285.40 bringing in a monthly bill of only £672.40. And the journey from Tonbridge to Charing Cross is swifter — from 42 minutes compared with 56 minutes from Tunbridge Wells.
Russell Alexander, a senior negotiator at Howard Cundey estate agents in Tonbridge says great state schools make the area popular, and the town centre is in line for some much-needed regeneration.
Tonbridge and Malling borough council is backing a multimillion-pound project to build a cinema, leisure centre and shops by 2016.
Alexander says renters could find a two-bedroom flat in town from £750 a month, or a pretty Victorian two-bedroom cottage at around £850. Families could opt for a semi-rural house with four to five bedrooms and up to an acre of gardens from £1,800 to £2,300 a month.
St Albans is a beautiful city with good shopping, restaurants and cafés, and character homes. Its average monthly rent is £424. A key reason to love St Albans is its speedy 18-minute commute to St Pancras International. A monthly season ticket costs £298.80, giving a monthly total of £722.80.
It also means people living in a central London postcodes such as Camden, with an average rent of £666 and a Zone 1 and 2 travel card at £116.80 would also be slightly better off living in St Albans.
'We save nearly £4,000 a year and the girls can go to the same good local school'
© Martin Pitchley
Laura Campbell with daughters Skye, seven, and Amelia, five
Laura Campbell and her husband, Grant, could not afford to buy a house so they rented in Greenwich. They paid £1,800 a month for a three-bedroom period house seconds from a good school, but while daughter Skye, seven, got a place there, A melia, five, was not admitted to the nursery class.
The couple were both working in central London. Grant, 38, is the creative director of an events company, while Laura, 34, runs Dangerous Mines Creative, a public relations firm.
When in Greenwich they both needed a Zone 1 to 3 travel card, which now costs £136.80 a month, meaning a total monthly expenditure on rent andtravel of £2,073.60. Two years ago they moved to Godstone, Surrey. Grant’s commute takes just under an hour. A monthly travel pass costs £273.80.
The rent on their three-bedoom house comes in at £1,200. Laura now works from home but if both commuted, their monthly costs would be only £1,747.60, an annual saving of more than £3,900. Another plus is that the girls are settled at one school.