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Buying in the London commuter belt: Home Counties hotspots with the most homes for sale at the lowest prices

·4-min read
Finchingfield in Essex  (Alamy)
Finchingfield in Essex (Alamy)

Essex has been named as the commuter sweet spot for relocating Londoners, with the highest number of family homes for sale at the lowest prices, across any of the home counties.

For those families looking to move out of London following the Covid-19 pandemic, the most sensibly priced three-, four- and five-bedroom properties available to buy right now are on the east side of the capital, with Essex (1st), Kent (2nd) and East Sussex (3rd) coming top of the ranking.

Why Essex?

There are 9,420 properties on the market in Essex, at an average house price of £404,488, and 4,974 homes for sale with three bedrooms or more.

Although there is more slightly more stock in Kent, the average price of £414,458 is higher. The new analysis by Jackson-Stops, and exclusive to Homes & Property, puts Essex as the home counties sweet spot.

A Grade II listed thatched cottage in the Essex village of Shalford, near Braintree, is on sale for £500,000 (Rightmove)
A Grade II listed thatched cottage in the Essex village of Shalford, near Braintree, is on sale for £500,000 (Rightmove)

“Essex has always benefited from the double hitter of access to good schools and proximity to London, and homes along the A12 corridor go for a premium.

“However, since the pandemic, we have seen areas in the county which were previously considered too remote by the commuter rise in popularity,” says James Caffrey of Jackson-Stops in Chelmsford.

“As we embed into a culture of hybrid working, homeowners are happy to add extra time to their journey, and villages such as Finchingfield, Great Bardfield, Wethersfield and Castle Hedingham are in demand,” he adds.

The movement of households from London into the suburbs, market towns and villages in the commuter belt has long been a property rite of passage as growing families go in search of more space. This has been due to high house prices in the capital which make it difficult to upsize.

However, the pandemic and the first lockdown, in combination with the Chancellor’s emergency stamp duty holiday, boosted the number of home counties home buyers further still, driving up prices but reducing the number of properties on the market to record lows.

In fact, this spring saw the starkest imbalance between supply and demand ever recorded by Rightmove.

There are 10,112 properties to view across Kent and 5,241 homes with three or more bedrooms. There is a big drop in the number of available properties from Essex, Kent to the rest of the counties surrounding London.

The worst place to buy in the commuter belt

West Sussex had the worst combination of low stock and high prices with 3,279 properties on sale, 1,586 homes for sale with three bedrooms or more and an average house price of £437,734.

Additional research from Savills shows the supply plight in the small county, which runs from north of the South Downs National Park to the coast.

A country home for sale in the West Sussex town of Petworth for £895,000 with Savills (Rightmove)
A country home for sale in the West Sussex town of Petworth for £895,000 with Savills (Rightmove)

The sales to stock ratio was at 68 per cent in the first three months of 2019, this rose to 114 per cent in the same period in 2021 and dropped to 98 per cent this year.

Over 100 per cent means there are more sales going through than stock coming to market, explains Frances Clacy, analyst at Savills.

Most expensive Home County to buy in

The county with the highest average house price was Surrey at £621,134 (with 6,174 homes on the market) and then Hertfordshire where the average value is £514,437 (with 5,141 homes for sale).

“Historically, areas to the east of London were considered less desirable than the west, partly because of the industrial heritage along the Thames and because of where the prevailing winds carried the pollution,” says Frances Clacy, analyst at Savills.

“By comparison other compass points such as those to the west and south west benefited from a flow of wealth out of the capital, particularly into Surrey and Berkshire.”

“However, access to the financial districts (the City and Canary Wharf) means people have been increasingly moving east, taking advantage of the fast and frequent trains that run from Essex,” she says.

Commuter counties ranked

County

Total homes for sale

Homes with 3+

bedrooms for sale

Average house price

1 Essex

9,420

4,974

£404,488

2 Kent

10,112

5,241

£414,458

3 East Sussex

3,616

1,699

£412,571

4 Surrey

6,174

2,564

£621,134

5 Hertfordshire

5,141

2,280

£514,437

6 Buckinghamshire

3,353

1,776

£490,185

7 Berkshire

4,063

1,677

£471,509

8 West Sussex

3,279

1,586

£437,734

Data: Jackson Stops. Ranking based on the best combination of number of homes available for sale for families in combination with the lowest average house prices

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