The towns around London have long had complex property markets. Demand, prices and rents are dictated by a heady mix of the local resident market, the local industry, infrastructure, student markets in some cases, plus those commuting into London – and often bringing their London salaries into the local housing market. But these commuter locations have become even more complex in recent years, as rising London prices have made many of them more interesting to investors too. So in this report we will review the market in some of these commuter towns.
Before we go any further, let’s look at what makes a location commutable (or not). There’s no formal definition of course. But most commuters will tell you that, as well as prices/rents, travel costs and quality of life they choose a location based on travel time rather than distance.
To complicate the situation though, the quality of train, road and bus links is by no means consistent around the capital. So this can mean that some places further from London are more desirable than some places closer.
To offer a different perspective, the media frequently likes to publish articles identifying what are in their opinion the best commuter locations, which might provide investors with a few pointers. For example, one survey by the TotallyMoney website identifies the ‘top ten’ locations based on desirability as High Wycombe, Woking, Staines, Amersham, Gerrards Cross, Walton On Thames, Erith, Esher, Redhill and Horley. However, when based on property prices alone a survey by The Telegraph says that London’s most affordable commuter locations are Basildon, Luton, Harlow, Braintree, Gravesend, Crawley, Stevenage, Reading, Southend and Hatfield.
Now let’s move on and review the market in some of these London commuter locations, moving clockwise around the capital. Firstly, Essex has long had commuter appeal due to its affordability and good rail links to Liverpool Street station in the heart of the City of London. Harlow (rail commute 31 mins, average price £280,547, average rent £1,067pm) has become more popular with commuters of late due to its attractive pricing. The Harlow Enterprise Zone has been established as a focus for businesses in ICT, advanced manufacturing and life sciences with 5,000 new jobs projected long term. The area was awarded garden town status this January. There are plans for major new housing schemes here and the North of Harlow scheme at Gilston Park could provide 10,000 properties over six new villages.