Commuter Towns - Hertfordshire

With the majority of house prices in London now out of the reach of the average working family, more and more house buyers and property investors are looking to the commuter towns surrounding London which offer more affordable housing within a reasonable commute of London. For those who work in London purchasing a house in a commuter town is a necessity whilst for property investors it is an opportunity as the “ripple effect” sees the biggest rise in property values occurring within the commuter towns compared to anywhere else in England and Wales.

In this series of articles we will be looking at those commuter towns in Hertfordshire where properties are arguably affordable for the average working family. In Part 1 we focus on St Albans, Hitchin and Bishops Stortford.

St Albans

St Albans is 25 miles north of central London and has train services directly to St Pancras and Farringdon offering a 20-25 minute commute.

An old Roman town, St Albans has a town centre which is a picturesque mixture of mediaeval, and Georgian buildings. Properties in the central conservation area sell for between £500,000-£850,000 whilst properties in Marshalswick (north-east St Albans) with its large detached houses, sell for between £1 million and £2 million. Properties built in the 1920s and 1930s can be found close to the station in Fleet Mill and Clarence Park selling for between £650,000 and £1.75 million. Offering easy access to the M1 and the M25, St Stephens on the south side of St Albans has a mix of 1930s and more recent houses selling for between £500,000 and £1.5 million.

Property prices rose by 14% over the last 12 months with the average property price in St Albans being £446,330 (flats averaging £260,000, terraced properties £413,000 and semi-detached properties £532,000).

St Albans is popular due to its schools with an above average number of state primary schools and secondary schools obtaining the “outstanding” grade from Ofsted.

St Albans is an ideal family town with two shopping centres and the usual mainstream retailers and restaurants. There are three theatres and the cinema as well as the Verulamium and the Heartwood Forest.

Hitchin

Hitchin is fast becoming one of the most popular commuter towns with a 30 minute commute to Kings Cross. Hitchin is one of the two largest towns in North Hertfordshire with a population of around 33,000. The town centre has all the mainstream retailers as well as an expanding range of pubs and nightclubs and highly regarded restaurants. Other attractions include the Queen Mother Theatre, the Market Theatre and a range of parks and open spaces such as Priory Park and Bancroft Recreational Ground.

The average house price in Hitching over the last 12 months was £296,000 (flats selling for £170,000, terraced properties £300,000 and semi-detached properties £360,000) with house prices rising by 7%.

The property mix within Hitchin consists of big detached Edwardian and Victorian villas selling from £500,000-£800,000 and in streets close to the station, 3 bedroom terraced period houses from £220,000-£280,000.  

Hitchin also boasts popular schools with Hitchin Boys School and Hitchin Girls School being constantly oversubscribed.

Bishops Stortford

Bishops Stortford’s status as a commuter town began after the arrival of the railway in 1842 and it now boasts a commute of 30- 50 minutes with a direct link to Liverpool Street.  Close to the M11 and only 35 miles from London,  Bishop’s Stortford has all the advantages of rural living at the same time as affording ready access to city life.

The period immediately after the Second World War saw the largest expansion, with further housing booms taking place in the 1950s and 1960s.

Bishops Stortford offers a mix of modern family homes, two and three bedroomed Victorian properties and riverside flats.

London families are attracted by the high standard of the local schools (state and private) as well as the good transport links.  Three of the five state secondary schools in the town were ranked “outstanding“ by Ofsted in 2011.

In the last year, property prices in Bishops Stortford were 14% higher than the previous year with most property sales involving detached properties selling for an average of £530,000. Terraced Properties sold for an average of £260,000 and flats for an average £189,000.

With the majority of house prices in London now out of the reach of the average working family, more and more house buyers and property investors are looking to the commuter towns surrounding London which offer more affordable housing within a reasonable commute of London. For those who work in London purchasing a house in a commuter town is a necessity whilst for property investors it is an opportunity as the “ripple effect” sees the biggest rise in property values occurring within the commuter towns compared to anywhere else in England and Wales.

In this series of articles we will be looking at those commuter towns in Hertfordshire where properties are arguably affordable for the average working family. In Part 2 we focus on Tring, Hertford,

Tring

Lying 30 miles north-west of London Tring is a small old-fashioned Victorian market town which is dominated by the Natural History Museum housing  possibly the world’s largest collection of stuffed animals. The streets in the town centre consist mainly of Victorian houses with demand being highest for those within the conservation area around the museum where a two-bedroom property sells for around £235,000 and a three-bedroom property for £300,000. Other parts of Tring are largely populated by modern properties ranging from the 1950s onwards with the area close to Tring School and the station being the most popular with large detached houses selling for between £500,000 and £1 million. Tring also has a large supply of bungalows which when extended often sell for as much as £500,000.

Tring’s main selling point is its transport links with its proximity to the A41 (which connects with the M25) and a direct link to Euston station with a journey time of 40 minutes. Tring is not a popular rental area with properties for sale out numbering rental properties by as much as 5 to 1.

The town centre of Tring is fairly limited and old-fashioned in nature consisting of smaller food shops, independent gift shops and cafes, with most of the larger shops being away from the town centre.

House prices have risen by 7% in the last year with the average property price being £376,000 (terraced properties averaging £300,000, flats £280,000 and semi-detached properties £427,000).

Hertford

Lying only 19 miles from London, the centre of Hertford is a maze of mediaeval streets with a population of less than 25,000. With easy access to London by road and rail, Hertford has the atmosphere of a small country town and is a strong contrast to the frenetic pace of life in the Capital.  

Steeped in history, Hertford was named after the place where deer once crossed the river and to this day the town’s emblem is a stag or a hart. Historical claims to fame include the commemorating of the holding of the first Synod of the Church of England in 673 and the fact that Hertford played host to Parliament during Queen Elizabeth I’s reign when London was besieged by the plague.

Train links into Liverpool Street take around 53 minutes and to Moorgate around 45 minutes.

The centre of Hertford has a good choice of bars and restaurants however the shopping centre is limited consisting largely of small independent shops with the big shopping centres being in neighbouring Welwyn.

Areas of note are: Folly Island on the river Lea, close to the town centre which largely consists of two up- two down terrace houses selling for between £250,000 and £300,000; Queens Road in the southern part of the town where properties start at around £550,000; Bengeo on the north-western side of town where a two-bedroom cottage will fetch around £220,000 and large Edwardian properties sell for more than £1 million.

In the last year, the average selling price of properties in Hertford was £330,000 (terraced properties selling for an average of £321,000, flats £233,000 and semi-detached properties for £400,000). Property prices in Hertford remained stable in comparison with the previous year and were 5% up on 2012 prices.

Harpenden

Originally a small village, Harpenden grew into a prosperous commuter town after the arrival of the railway in 1860. A significant proportion of the properties in Harpenden are redbrick Victorian and Edwardian properties existing alongside large detached Victorian and Edwardian houses and properties built in the 1920s and 1930s with a smaller proportion of modern houses and flats. Mock-Tudor houses built in the 1920s in the West Common area of Harpenden are especially popular selling for £1.3 million-£3 million. To the west of the high Street are The Avenues where properties sell for £1.8 million-£3 million whilst in Poets Corner (where the roads are named after famous poets such as Shakespeare, Milton and Cowper) property sell for between £750,000-£1.5 million.

An affluent area, the average house price in Harpenden over the last year was £670,000 (average selling price for detached properties being £1 million, flats £292,000 and semi-detached properties £600,000). House prices rose by 6% over the last 12 months.

One of the biggest attractions of Harpenden are the high performing schools with the majority of the state primary schools in the area being judged as either “good” or “outstanding” by Ofsted and the three state secondary schools all being judged as “outstanding”. There are also a larger than average number of new free schools run by a consortium of charities.

Harpenden has a small high Street consisting of independent shops and a mix of chain stores. Harpenden has several parks as well as the famous Harpenden common.

Harpenden is a 30 minute commute to St Pancras and is also close to the M1, A1 and M25.

With the majority of house prices in London now out of the reach of the average working family, more and more house buyers and property investors are looking to the commuter towns surrounding London which offer more affordable housing within a reasonable commute of London. For those who work in London purchasing a house in a commuter town is a necessity whilst for property investors it is an opportunity as the “ripple effect” sees the biggest rise in property values occurring within the commuter towns compared to anywhere else in England and Wales.

In this series of articles we will be looking at those commuter towns in Hertfordshire where properties are arguably affordable for the average working family. In Part 3 we focus on Welwyn Garden City and Broxbourne

Welwyn Garden City

One of the first Garden Cities, Welwyn became part of the “New Town” planning scheme rolled out in 1948 when thousands of homes were built outside London to re-house Londoners after many parts of London had been destroyed in the Second World War. The result of this combination of “Garden City” and “New Town” is a mix of early Victorian garden city houses and more affordable modern houses with a wide range of house prices. An example would be the older style detached houses in Sherradspark Road which sells for over £1 million in contrast to a four-bedroom terraced houses in Holly Walk which sells for £275,000.

Welwyn has a busy town centre with an extensive retail offering of most of the well-known mainstream retailers including a large branch of John Lewis attracting shoppers from the surrounding towns such as Harpenden, and Hertford.

Welwyn offers a wide range of recreational facilities ranging from Stanborough Parks and Lakes (with its 126 acre country park and water sports centre) and walking routes along the River Lea between Wheathampstead and Ware and the Gosling Sports Centre (with its 100 station gym, tennis courts, golf range and dry ski slope and  the Hawthorne Theatre, a cinema and roller-skating rink.

Situated on the A1 (being a direct route into central London), Welwyn also benefits from regular trains to Moorgate (taking 45 minutes) and King’s Cross (taking 30 minutes).

Property prices rose by 11% in the last year with the average property price being £297,000 (terraced properties selling for an average £295,000, flats £186,000 and semi-detached properties £375,000).

Broxbourne

Lying 17 miles north-east of Charing Cross, Broxbourne benefits from a direct link to Liverpool Street with the daily commute taking just 27 minutes. Set in a rural location, Broxbourne offers an “antidote” to the stress of city working with Broxbourne Woods (being a national nature reserve) as well as the River Lee Country Park (which hosted the canoe and kayak events in the 2012 London Olympics).

The almost “chocolate box village like” town centre has a small parade of shops, one or two pubs and local restaurants and a high street of attractive 16th Century buildings. The New River passes through the town centre. A further attraction for families is the Broxbourne school which is ranked as “outstanding” by Ofsted.

Broxburn properties range from early Victorian villas which sell for £600,000 to 1950s semis (3-4 bedroom) which sell for around £350,000-£500,000. The exclusive area of Broxbourne is Carnaby Road where modern six bedroom mansions sell for prices in excess of £2 million.

In the last year, the average selling price of properties in Broxburn £335,000 (terraced properties averaging £280,000, flats £184,000 and detached properties £608,000) representing a 4% increase on the year before.

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