NEW SERIES HOTSPOTS Find the top-value Top 20
the strongest price growth over the past year. It’s a survey, by Hamptons International, that has uncovered many unexpected destinations.
To begin with, we look at three very different commuter towns that have all seen a respectable seven per cent property price growth over the year. There’s good value to be found here, along with easy access to countryside.
Average property price: £381,000 Price increase since 2007: 30 per cent Average price for a house: £498,000 Journey time: 26 minutes
Why move here? With a relatively easy commute, this Hertfordshire “new town” was developed to create overspill housing for Londoners after the Second World War. The Old Town’s candy-coloured terraces are pretty, and on a sunny afternoon the Grand Union Canal towpath is lovely. This town is well-resourced with sports facilities and a cinema. Popular schools include John F Kennedy Catholic School, for seniors, with an “outstanding” Ofsted rating.
Hemel Hempstead is far better value for money than nearby commuter honeypots such as Berkhamsted. It’s also very convenient for the M1, and the Chiltern Hills are a seven-mile drive away. The smartest bit is Boxmoor, south west of town, an enclave of Victorian and Edwardian houses near the station. Homes here sell for £650,000-plus. Any downsides? This is not a good-looking town, despite an ongoing £30 million regeneration of the centre. The shops are a disappointing range of chains, while dreary post-war properties are easier to find than lovely period homes or well-designed modern houses. The location of the station, twoand-a-half miles south west of the town centre, means some commuters have a long walk.
Average property price: £235,000 Price increase since 2007: 40 per cent Average price for a house: £300,000 Journey time: 54 minutes
Why move here? This swathe of Essex seaside is hard to beat on price and is slowly shedding its “kiss-me-quick” reputation as more young families move in. Gary Denyer, branch manager of Bairstow Eves estate agents, estimates that 50 to 60 per cent of homes are sold to incomers, most from east London seeking affordability.
Thorpe Bay is the smartest address in town, where a four-bedroom detached Thirties house will cost you about £400,000 — less than a onebedroom flat in Canary Wharf. In summer the seven beaches are the big draw, and a £50 million plan on the table to upgrade the seafront includes a seawater swimming lagoon. Out of season all roads lead to Leigh-on-Sea Broadway, with its boutiques, vintage shops and thriving café culture. Southend’s sports facilities are good, with several leisure centres offering everything from swimming to tennis. There’s an Odeon cinema, an art gallery, and two theatres, and London Southend airport’s a plus. The town’s two single-sex high schools each hold “outstanding” Ofsted reports. Any downsides? Primary school standards are patchy, and while you might dream of a sea view, you’ll need deep pockets to acquire one. A family house in one of the Victorian/Edwardian streets with sea views will cost six figures. Town centre shopping is mostly chain store, and nightlife can get rowdy, particularly in high season.
Average property price: £314,000 Price increase since 2007: 34 per cent Average price for a house: £382,000 Journey time: 59 minutes
Why move here? The streets radiating from central Market Place in this Berkshire town offer a good mix of shops, pubs and an improving range of restaurants. Property choice is wide, with traditional brick-and-flint cottages and Victorian and Edwardian family homes in the town centre; Thirties houses to the south of town; plenty of post-war houses, and dreamy country houses in the surrounding villages. There are plenty of high-achieving primary schools, while for seniors, The Downs School gets an “outstanding” Ofsted rating.
In the M4 “wealth corridor”, Newbury is famous for its racecourse, has its share of golf clubs and is right on the edge of the lovely Berkshire Downs. There is a town lido, several annual comedy or music festivals, plus a theatre and cinema within the old Corn Exchange. The two shopping centres include Parkway, for John Lewis and Joules.
“Newbury has always had a very steady market,” says Rupert Reeves, a partner at Carter Jonas. “In the downturns it always holds its own… it is easy to get to a lot of places from here, schools are good and Newbury retains its market town feel.”
The average house price of £382,000 buys a modern four-bedroom townhouse or a threebedroom Victorian house. Any downsides? weekend nightlife is meagre and parking in the town centre is almost always a nightmare.
£850,000: four-bedroom Elizabethan farmhouse in Hemel Hempstead. Castles (01442 738036)
£600,000: a four-bedroom terrace in Cambridge Road, Southend. Peter Howard (01702 744134)
Historic character: pastel-painted terraces in the Old Town High Street, Hemel Hempstead