The other way is Essex
(Reading, Slough and Ealing) are flocking out here to Essex.
There are two estate agents directly opposite the station, barely 50 yards from the buffers. It may be another two years before Crossrail finally opens, but already prices have gone up 30 per cent, boosted by the news that it will eventually take just 48 minutes to get right into Bond Street.
At Abbotts estate agents you can buy a three-bedroom house for £310,000 and a three-bed bungalow for £400,000. At the lower end of the market, a ground-floor flat has just gone for £110,000.
At neighbouring agents Hilbery Chaplin, two-bedroom semi-detached houses are fetching £235,000£300,000, while swankier homes are on the market for anything from £650,000 to £995,000; some of them, it should be mentioned, haven’t even been built yet. Yes, it’s property boom time in this part of Essex.
The county as a whole has everything you could need, from remote country piles for millionaires seeking rural solitude to bachelor pads in Brentwood – home to the popular ITV reality show The Only Way is Essex – for first-time buyers wanting nightlife on their doorstep. But, while some of the locations along the Crossrail line have already been “discovered”, such as Ilford or Romford, there are plenty of less wellknown spots to explore.
At Harold Hill, for example, it will take Crossrail passengers just 68 minutes to get to Heathrow. No wonder, then, that there’s an enormous new housing development across the road from the station. Even the name of the area has been changed. Amid giant glamorous photographs of what the place will eventually look like, there’s a huge crown on a sign that says “Kings Park – Harold Wood”. When they are completed, a one-bedroom place will set you back £250,000, or £340,000 for a two-bed home.
Next to a parade of shops with everything from a Co-op and a bakery to a post office and a pub called the King Harold. There’s even a big advertisement for Drapers’ Academy, the local school graded “good” by the Ofsted inspectors.
The going rate elsewhere in Harold Hill is £250,000 for a two-bed house and £300,000-£395,000 for three bedrooms, according to estate agents Delaney’s and Haart.
One stop nearer to London, at Gidea Park, the offices of Bairstow Eves estate agents display testimonials, chronicling people’s reasons for wanting to move there.
“Miss B and Mr W are looking for a one or two-bed maisonette”, reads one of half a dozen green signs. “They both commute to London daily, and a property within walking distance of the station would be ideal, up to £275,000.”
Another sign introduces Mr and Mrs R, “who are cash buyers up to £375,000”. That would be enough to buy them a £300,000 maisonette, “just a stone’s throw from Gidea Park station”, or, alternatively, a onebedroom flat for £164,995 plus a first floor maisonette at £179,995, on with the Dwellings estate agency.
Even from the train, you see huge banners advertising new flats at Oldchurch Park, Romford, and yet more apartments being built on the Olympic Park, in Stratford.
It’s only when you start getting nearer to London that the supply dries up. Get off at Seven Kings, for example, just six stops from Liverpool Street, and the estate agents are suddenly few and far between: outnumbered by car dealerships.
There’s no question that for Shenfield the impending arrival of Crossrail has delivered a new lease of life to some previously disregarded parts of the capital.
Once upon a time, it was only the smoke and fumes of Victorian London that travelled towards East London, carried upon the prevailing breeze.
Now, however, the economic wind has changed, the clean air acts are in force, and the time has come for capital-dwellers to look towards not just the east but to Essex.
Brent Hall, Little Warley, near Brentwood: £3.35m through Savills (01245 269 311)