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The Home Counties: Why so desirable?

 

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There are clearly a huge variety of factors that can make some areas more desirable to live than others. Indeed, in recent years we have seen an influx of people being drawn to the allure of the Home Counties, but why?

In particular, there has been the much-publicized exodus of young families from London who have set their sites on counties such as Surrey, Hampshire, Berkshire and Kent. By exploring this specific shift in mindset it explains much of why the Home Counties are becoming an increasingly attractive place to live.

Value for money

There has been a huge amount written in recent times regarding the boom in London property prices. Foreign money from Russia and the Middle East has clearly been a significant factor in inflating the cost of London housing, most notably in central areas. According to Savills, up to 85% of new build property in prime central London was bought with foreign money last year.

According to Nationwide, the average house price in London now stands at £400,000 with an increase of well over 20% over the last year. In comparison, the South East saw prices rise by 13.2% whereas the North saw growth as little as 4.3%. Clearly we continue to see huge disparities between London and other parts of the country.

This poses a significant problem for many young families living in the capital, who are unlikely to be at the peak of their career earning potential.  Whilst coming to terms with the emotional and financial burdens of starting a family, couples are increasingly being forced to look outside of London to get more for their money.

For example, £400,000 in Fulham is likely to get you little more than a 1 bedroom flat. However, compared with Guildford, by no means the most affordable town outside of London, you would achieve a 2 bedroom semi-detached property with a garden – at the very least.

It would seem that homeowners are clearly relishing the chance to cash in on the vast growth of their property in the capital and snap up a relative bargain in the Home Counties.

 

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Commuting

Whilst we understand why more and more families are choosing to leave the capital, why the Home Counties? One of the most compelling reasons for this is likely to be the commuting options available.

By moving to these areas, it does not have to mean a complete change of job and lifestyle for those nervous about leaving their fond memories of London behind. Indeed, transport links in areas such as Godalming, Reading and Basingstoke could often mean less of a commute to work than those poor souls hacking their way through the London transport system on a daily basis.

LifeAfterLondon.com refers to a “golden hour” which is perceived to be the optimum time to commute to work. Godalming, Reading and Basingstoke all have regular direct trains into central London, with journey times well within an hour. In addition, Reading is likely to prove more popular in the future, as it will provide the opportunity to connect via Maidenhead on the Crossrail. Road links are also good with the M4, M3 and A3 offering convenient routes into central London.

Schools

A high standard of schools is obviously a top priority for those families moving out of the city and it is something that the Home Counties offer in abundance. With the vast rise in cost of traditional private schools in the past decade, the importance of moving to the best catchment areas has never been more important.

Ofsted rates over 80% of Surrey’s schools as either “outstanding” or “good” and as Linda Kemeny, Surrey County Council’s Cabinet Member for Schools and Learning, said: “These figures reinforce the fact that Surrey has some of the best state schools in the country.”

In addition to this, Surrey and Berkshire have some of the most highly regarded private schools. Whilst coming at an increasingly high cost, Charterhouse, Wellington, St Catherine’s and Bradfield are just some of the schools in the area that offer virtually unrivaled opportunities to their pupils. Indeed, they continue to appeal to those in high earning jobs in the City, as well as foreign students from the Far East and Russia.

 

Rural Life

It would seem that families are increasingly looking to raise their children in a more rural environment, away from the hustle and bustle of major cities. Many parents want their children to spend as much time outdoors as possible, whether it be feeding the chickens, cultivating the veg patch or kicking a rugby ball around – a modern day take on The Good Life, if you will.  This is again where villages in the Home Counties offer so much, and why families are jumping at the chance to be part of these communities. Some perceive this to be a better quality of life for their children and it is something that is hard to achieve in the major cities across the UK.

However, it is not just homeowners that have fallen for the Home Counties. As an article from the Economist illustrates, a “sizeable chunk of Britain’s economy is propped up in places such as Reading.” In fact, it claims that the M4 corridor accounts for up to 8% of Britain’s economic output. Improving transport links and cheaper real estate no doubt makes such areas appealing to businesses.

Graham Norwood from The Telegraph refers to the idea of a “Golden Triangle” which he claims “denotes the coming together of good schools, transport links, buoyant local economies and, most of all, first-class homes in beautiful locations”. One could argue this sums up much of why a life outside of London has become so appealing to so many in recent years.

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