Kent Commuter Towns to London

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.

Sevenoaks

For many years Sevenoaks has been one of the most popular commuter towns for those wanting a country life to complement their city life. With a population of 30,000 inhabitants, Sevenoaks, has the large Knole Country Estate (now owned by the National Trust and open to the public) and the ground-breaking private co-educational school. Sevenoaks is 25 miles south of London with a 35 minute commute into Charing Cross or Canon Street.

The property mix in Sevenoaks consists of a significant number of 1920s and 1930s family homes,  with the centre of town being dominated by large Victorian and Edwardian semi-detached and detached houses (although there have been recent developments of apartments close to the station).

Although it is still possible to purchase a small Victorian terrace house in some parts of Sevenoaks (for example, in the central St John’s area) £250,000-£300,000 “Sevenoaks living” comes at a premium.  In Hollybush Lane, large Victorian houses start at around £1.5 million and in the Quakers Hall Road area, Edwardian semis were selling for between £850,000-£950,000 in 2013. Close to the station, the new apartment developments sell from around £429,000 (two bedroom)-£630,000 (three bedroom).

For families, Sevenoaks School is a top performing private school. Founded in 1432, Sevenoaks school was the first secondary school in the UK to replace the A-level exam with the Baccalaureate. Situated next to the Knole country Park, Sevenoaks School topped the national performance tables for GCSEs in 2012 and ranked as the top performing independent school in that year.

In keeping with its genteel small country town image, the high Street is a combination of mediaeval buildings with some later buildings and a small shopping centre. The choice of shopping is fairly limited with boutiques and gift shops and a Waitrose. There are also a few small pubs and restaurants.

The average overall selling price of properties in Sevenoaks is £568,54  although in the last year (May 2015) the average selling price has been £1,044,251 (terraced properties averaging £367,000 and flats £295,000). House prices in Sevenoaks rose by 7% in the last year.

Tunbridge Wells

Renowned for its Victorian and Edwardian houses mixed with small Victorian terraces, Tunbridge Wells is situated on the A21 and has a direct train link to Charing Cross and Cannon Street (journey time averaging one hour).

It was Lord North who discovered the health giving properties of the iron rich spring waters of Tunbridge Wells in 1606 and in the 18th century Tunbridge Wells became a popular spa resort for London gentry, rivalling the spa town of Bath. Tunbridge Wells’s affluent Victorian period has left a legacy of fine Victorian houses, terraces and churches and to protect its genteel character many of the new homes within the town are built to mimic the Victorian splendour.  Properties designed by the Victorian architect Decimus Burton, sell at a premium, with parts of the Decimus Burton Villa at Calverley Park selling for over £2 million. Tunbridge Wells “park” areas (Calverley Park, Nevill Park, Hungershall Park and Camden Park) are the most exclusive areas in Tunbridge Wells.

Tunbridge Wells comes high on the list for families needing to move out of London with its three grammar schools and highly performing comprehensive schools and additionally a choice of private schools.

Tunbridge Wells shopping has achieved a rare balance between small independent shops and high Street chains. At the northern end of the town the main high street brands can be found in Calverley Road and the Royal Victoria shopping centre and a short walk towards the centre of town reveals more upmarket and independent shops. Pubs and hotels are well catered for and there is also the usual out-of-town retail park.  For those with a cultural leaning, there are two theatres being the Assembly Hall and Trinity Theatre whilst for the sporting, there is the Tunbridge Wells sports centre and the council owned swimming pool.

Over the last year (May 2015) the average selling price in Tunbridge Wells for a flat has been £220,000, with terraced properties selling for an average £303,000 and semi-detached properties £395,000. The overall average selling price of properties in Tunbridge Wells’s £358,000. Prices of properties in Tunbridge Wells rose by 6% in the last 12 months.

Tonbridge and Chatham

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 Tonbridge and Chatham.

Tonbridge.

With its castle mound and 13th century gatehouse, Tonbridge was originally a Norman fortified town.  1842 saw the arrival of the railway at Tonbridge and its establishment as a commuter town.

Lying 30 miles south-east from Central London, Tonbridge has a direct connection to Charing Cross and Canon Street with the commute taking 40-50 minutes. The town centre of Tonbridge has suffered from being so close to neighbouring Tunbridge Wells and in recent years has been dominated by charity shops. There are plans for the regeneration of the town centre including  a new Sainsbury’s supermarket together with a cinema and a leisure centre and more shops.

Families are attracted to Tonbridge by the success of their three grammar schools all of which were ranked as “outstanding” in 2013 with the town’s primary schools performing at a similar level. Tonbridge is also well known for the agricultural and horticultural college in the town, Hadlow College.

At the centre of the town, there are large Victorian and Edwardian detached houses whereas  to the south there are smaller cottages (two and three bedroom) which date back to the period between the two world wars.  Properties in the more expensive areas such as Dry Hill Park Road and Yardley Park Road are large detached Victorian and Edwardian properties which were selling for between £700,000 and £800,000 in 2013; similar properties can be found in The Drive.  Detached houses built in the 1920s can be found in The Ridgeway, Ridgeway Cresent and The Hadens. Two-bedroom Victorian cottages selling (in 2013) for between £190,000-£245,000 can be found in other parts Tonbridge.

In the year leading up to May 2015, the majority of house sales in Tonbridge were semi-detached properties within average selling price of £332,763. Terraced properties sold for an average of £285,420 and flats £223,746. Overall the average selling price properties in Tonbridge over the last year, was £347,283 with prices rising 15% on the previous year.

Chatham

Steeped in maritime heritage, Chatham was primarily known as being one of the largest naval ports in the country until the closure of the naval dockyard in 1984 after 400 years (although part of the former dockyard still exists as a tourist attraction run by charitable trust). Lying 33 miles south-east of London and on the A2 there are frequent trains to St Pancras, Victoria, Cannon Street and London Bridge with the average commute taking 45 minutes.

Chatham offers property across the range and property types with Georgian homes, large Victorian houses and in contrast, a new riverside village with modern chic apartments at the dockside.  Chatham has some of the most affordable housing in the South East’s with Victorian terraces near the  centre of town selling from between £90,000< (in need of modernisation) and £230,000 Chatham does however, have it’s exclusive areas such as  Officers’ Terrace where properties sell for £1 million plus.  In areas just outside Chatham such as Gllingham,  houses sell for around £250,000. Walderslade another outlying area, is another  popular area with large modern detached houses and house prices ranging  from around £400,000 and £650,000.

The town centre is somewhat jaded and although the buildings are good architecturally,  there is a dominance of charity shops and bargain stores with neglected hanging baskets.  There is however, the Dockside Outlet Centre which sports bargains from the likes of Marks & Spencer and other well-known designer brands.  There is a shortage of recreational open space within Chatham itself however the Riverside Country Park is in the easy reach being on the outskirts of the town  in Gillingham. For family entertainment, there are two theatres the Central Theatre and the smaller Brook Theatre. Other sources of entertainment include an Odeon multiplex, the visitor attractions at the dockyard and “Dickens World”.

With regard to education, Chatham has three grammar schools one of which was ranked as “outstanding” in 2013 whilst the other two schools continue to get good results.

In the 12 months up to May 2015, most property sales in Chatham were terraced properties selling for an average of £159,353. In the same period of time, semi-detached properties sold for an average of £199,761 whilst the average price of flats was £133,755. Overall, the average selling price in the last year was £180,844 with a rise of 4% over the year before.

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