Rising in the east: the only way is up for Essex
it comes to property prices, the only way is up. Some Essex hotspots are outperforming many areas of London, with average price rises of 50 per cent or more during the past five years. These include Harlow, Hockley, Basildon and Grays. First-time buyers are also increasingly attracted to the county as it boasts one of the highest levels of new-build housing developments, many of which can – for now – be bought using Help to Buy.
A number of buyers from trendy areas of east London who are looking for easy commutes and more space are moving out to Essex, says Stephen White of Savills. “We are seeing people from affluent city-centre locations such as Wapping, Shoreditch and Hackney following the A12 corridor north to Brentwood, Shenfield, Chelmsford and Colchester,” he says. “£1million in central London will buy just under 1,389 sq ft of house, but 2,490 sq ft in Chelmsford, for example.”
With the exception of Kent, Essex is the most affordable of the Home Counties, according to data from Savills. The average property in Essex sold for £341,570 during the past year, compared with £418,989 in Buckinghamshire, £423,790 in Berkshire, £463,516 in Hertfordshire and £534,035 in Surrey.
“Essex is a county on the up, with thousands of Londoners moving out of the capital to its many attractive and appealing towns and cities,” says Ian Gorst, regional chairman of housebuilder Bellway Homes’ south-east business. “Essex has both affordably priced homes and diverse surroundings, from vibrant town centres and exquisite villages to unspoilt countryside and the seaside.”
Bellway Homes has 16 schemes across the county in areas where much-needed regeneration is taking shape. It has built in areas such as the east London suburbs of Hornchurch and Rainham, as well as Rochford, near Southend-on-Sea.
A city since 2012, Chelmsford has improved in recent years. Property prices increased by 40 per cent between 2010 and 2017. A 35-minute train ride into Liverpool Street, this commuter hub has more Costa Coffee branches than anywhere else in the UK (13), and although not chocolatebox charming, there’s a pretty flint cathedral. The conservation area of Old Moulsham, south of the river Can, has a good choice of independent shops.
Chelmsford’s high street and Bond Street have been much improved with higher-end shopping, including a John Lewis, a refurbished station and an Everyman Cinema. The new Clock Tower retail park, on the Britvic factory site, will have an M&S food hall (but no Waitrose – yet).
Chelmsford has long been popular with aspirational families, thanks to its excellent schools; the range includes outstanding state schools, independent preps, and grammars such as King Edward VI and Chelmsford County High School for Girls.
Detached houses make up one third of the city’s housing stock, with the average price across the board around