phone icon callback
PROPERTY INVESTMENT

London

On Location

What is the London commuter belt?

Although there is no physical boundary, London’s commuter belt refers to the surrounding counties of the capital that have a practical road or rail connection to the city.

Commutable towns and cities have experienced a rise to prominence in recent years, partly due to the high cost of living in the capital. A trend in city workers moving outside of London has seen property markets in the South East and East of England perform exceptionally well for rental and capital growth, allowing investors and landlords to capitalise on the lower cost of housing in these regions.

The demand for property in commutable locations has significantly increased as more businesses and workers moved to a hybrid of working from home and in the office throughout the pandemic.

Tracking property market trends

The high cost of living in London has seen the number of people living in the capital decrease by 550,000 over the last 10 years. Despite a decline in the number of people residing in the city, the variety of business opportunities and jobs available continue to attract workers.

As a result, towns and cities within commuting distance of London have experienced somewhat of a revival, bridging the gap between affordability for those working in the city. London is one of the world’s most-loved cities; however, as the cost of living in the capital continues to rise, there is a real need for investors and developers to combat the undersupply of affordable housing in the city.

Due to the price of property and land in London, towns and cities located in commutable areas have become the answer to unlocking more housing on the market. For Buy-to-Let investors, the lower cost of property outside of London and strong tenant demand make commuter belt hotspots ideal for portfolio diversification.

Buy-to-Let London and the Commuter Belt Overview

PROPERTY VALUES

Most investors are keen to build equity up in their rental property investment, and those considering options in London’s commuter belt will be reassured by the performance of the South East and East of England’s markets.

According to the most recent UK House Price Index, in the year to February 2022, average property values increased by 12.5% in the East and 12% in the South East. Compared to the rest of England, only the South West region matches the same level of growth, recording 12.5% gains over the same period.

Further highlighting the capital growth potential commutable locations offer investors, London was the region with the lowest annual house price growth, recording a +8.1-percentage change.

POSITIVE 5-YEAR OUTLOOK

As we look to the future, investors prioritising capital gains will be drawn to the potential commuter belt markets have to offer over London, with industry forecasts painting a particularly positive picture for property values in these areas.

According to Savills, over the next five years, average house prices are on track to climb by +10.4% in the South East and +10.4% in the East of England, almost double the rate of London’s market.

Source: Savills House Price Forecast (published November 2021).

Towns and cities in well-established commuter locations with a below-average, or a lower than London price tag, offer Buy-to-Let investors the potential to unlock strong future growth.

RENTAL YIELDS

The demand for rental property outside of London significantly increased during the pandemic, with commuter belt rents rising by an average of 13.1% since the first lockdown.

As city centres like London experience a post-pandemic bounce back, where people are returning to city living for work, education, or to resume life following a stint back home, the demand for rental property has increased. In 2021, the average value of rents in London climbed by 10.3%, according to Zoopla.

Despite a wave of people returning to city living, many have put down roots in areas outside of the capital over the last two years. With the cost of renting in London jumping significantly, many have opted to remain in commutable locations for the foreseeable future.

To highlight tenant demand, over the last 12 months, rents in commuter belt cities increased by 8.4% and towns by 8.7% (Savills).

A lack of stock has pushed rents upwards, which will continue to be the case until the imbalance between supply and demand is addressed. For Buy-to-Let investors, adding the right type of property in a desirable location will help underpin rental returns and negate void periods.

+13.1%

COMMUTER BELT RENTS RISING BY AN AVERAGE OF 13.1% SINCE THE FIRST LOCKDOWN

+8.4%

OVER THE LAST 12 MONTHS, RENTS IN COMMUTER BELT CITIES INCREASED BY 8.4%

-550,000

PEOPLE LIVING IN LONDON HAS DECREASED BY 550,000 OVER THE LAST 10 YEARS

Types of property desired by tenants

Covid-19 caused many people to reassess their work-life balance, and for some renters, that included the location of their property.

With restrictions now lifted and more people returning to the office part-time, flexible working patterns have allowed many city workers to remain in commuter belt towns and cities that boast reliable rail links to London.

Previously, the cost of commuting played a significant factor for those travelling to work by train; however, less frequent trips to the office have increased the appeal of living further afield.

Those who have swapped city living for longer commutes are likely to secure more space and better value for money when compared to London’s rental market. This statement is also true for investors, with the average value of property in areas surrounding London considerably lower when compared to the capital.

For investors and renters alike, a property’s proximity to a train or tube station is a key consideration, with rental housing within walking distance of a station often in high demand.

However, it’s not just about travel. According to Savills research, schools have been ranked as the top priority for tenants across the commuter belt, proximity to train or tube and place of work ranked second and third.

Considering the type of tenant a Buy-to-Let will appeal to should be part of any investment strategy. Investors purchasing in commutable towns and cities should consider options that provide more than just good transport links.

7 considerations for investors

When it comes to selecting where to invest, it is crucial to ensure the opportunity caters to the end-user to maximise your return on investment. In this section, the experts at Surrenden Invest have highlighted our top seven considerations for investors. Although an opportunity doesn’t necessarily need to tick every box, consider these factors before you buy a property.

It will be no surprise that reliable and affordable rail links into London are a top priority for tenants moving to commuter belt locations. Investors should look for areas that provide a direct and regular route into central rail hubs. Anyone familiar with commuting to work will appreciate the proximity of a property to a station, which means that investors should be on the lookout for town or city centre opportunities within walking distance to rail links.

However, it’s not just about travelling to London. Access to main roads, local amenities, and the surrounding area should also be factored into a buying decision. Properties with allocated parking or well-designed bike storage will also help boost the property’s appeal.

Not every property will boast a garden or outdoor space in the shape of a terrace or balcony; therefore, access to open green spaces is a great way to enhance the kerb appeal of your rental investment – especially if you are buying an apartment.

With more people working from home, flexible working has emerged as the new normal. Those who have swapped city life for living outside of London will naturally want access to local amenities, bars, restaurants, gyms, theatres and community-held events to occupy their time.

Purchasing a rental property in an established commuter belt location with its own identity is a good move for property investors. After all, prospective tenants moving from one of the busiest cities in the world will be accustomed to having amenities on their doorstep.

Central, new-build developments could be the key to providing commuters with high-quality housing to reflect their affluent lifestyle. In addition, properties with onsite facilities, including a gym, breakout office spaces, and access to local offerings, will stand out on the rental market.

Buyers who want to build a successful property portfolio should always consider up-and-coming markets that provide room to grow. Established commuter belt locations will likely provide robust rental returns; however, investors must consider if the higher price associated with sought-after towns and cities will provide long-term growth potential when it comes to capital gains.

Undervalued options, where demand is high, and the imbalance between supply and demand has not been met, will likely provide greater scope for rising rental yields and capital gains.

Capitalising on local generation projects backed by government schemes or private investment is an established and proven strategy for property investors. Those entering at the earliest stages are rewarded with the strongest growth. However, these markets are most suitable for those willing to hold their asset over a longer term.

Infrastructure improvements, investment in jobs and schools, and revamps of town or city centres are just a few examples of long-term projects investors should pay attention to.

London often overshadows the employment market in the South East and East of England. However, plenty of job opportunities in these regions make living and working outside of the capital incredibly enticing.

Both regions are home to some of the country’s busiest international airports, which collectively employ over 100,000 people.

Many global firms have also established a presence in commuter belt locations due to the high cost of renting commercial space in London or the inability to secure large sites. Transport connections and proximity to London make setting up Global Headquarters in these regions a savvy choice.

Buy-to-Let investors can capitalise on the demand for rental housing from city workers and locals by providing options close to regional employment hubs.

Access to leading schools is undoubtedly a consideration for those with young families. Depending on the type of property you plan to invest in – a one-bedroom apartment, for example – a high-ranking school in the area may not be of the utmost importance. Those looking to house families will naturally want to seek information about catchment areas for local schools and adjust their strategy depending on the demographic you plan to let your house out to.

£664,145

SEVENOAKS HAS SEEN PROPERTY PRICES CLIMB TO £664,145

20mins

REDHILL IN LEAFY SURREY IS ONLY 20 MINUTES BY TRAIN FROM LONDON

18.8%

AVERAGE RENT IN WOKING IS £1,562 PCM COMPARED TO LONDON’S £3,366 PCM 

Location guide: best commuter towns to invest in

In this section, Surrenden Invest highlights some of the best commuter towns to invest in.

According to a Savills report, Sevenoaks has been one of the most in-demand commuter towns over the last year, making it a hotspot in its own right.

With trains running between Sevenoaks and London taking only 22 minutes, this quaint Kent town has seen property prices climb to £664,145, with average values up by 9% over the last year (Zoopla). As a result, Sevenoaks is one of the most expensive commuter towns.

Sevenoaks is a sought-after location for those leaving London behind. However, affordability remains a key consideration. It comes with a higher price tag as one of the most desirable locations to live in.
As an established market in its own right, the value of property in Sevenoaks is not far from the cost in London. Those looking for better value for money and more robust growth potential should look for locations with a lower entry-level onto the market whilst providing strong growth potential.

Redhill in leafy Surrey is only 20 minutes by train from London and has become an ideal choice for those looking to escape London to secure a better work-life balance.

With excellent transport links and a direct train to London Victoria and London Bridge, Redhill has been named London’s second-best commuter town.

The average cost of property in Redhill is £419,626, with prices increasing by 5% over the last year (Rightmove).
Redhill is more than just a commutable location and has established itself as a hub for businesses, with the headquarters of Santander Consumer Finance, SES Water, AXA breakdown assistance, and Aon setting up a presence in the town.

Easy access to the M23, M25, and Gatwick Airport – one of the region’s largest employers – has made it an excellent choice for those living and working in the South East.

For Buy-to-Let investors, Redhill’s position between large employment hubs and its excellent transport links will mean that the demand for property will remain strong. As a result, Redhill is a viable option for investors to secure long-term gains from an up-and-coming market.

Woking has been named one of the best UK towns to live in by The Times. Located just 20 miles from London, the town is in the heart of the commuter belt and boasts frequent trains into the capital taking around 24 minutes.

With quick access to the M3 and M25 and a 30-minute drive from Heathrow airport, Woking is undoubtedly an ideal choice for investors who have expanded their search for property outside London.

Woking has carved out an attractive identity for itself and offers locals plenty of things to do. With a large shopping district, bars and restaurants, a theatre, museum, plus it is home to international exhibitions and food festivals, locals have a variety of offerings on their doorstep. This leafy town in Surry also has plenty of green space, including the charming Goldworth Park.

For those looking to secure capital growth, the £460 million Victoria Square regeneration will see the town centre revamped over the coming years, making Woking an ideal spot for investment.

The affordable price of rental property and its proximity to London will likely underpin returns in the years to come in terms of rental demand. According to Home.co.uk, the average rent in Woking is £1,562 PCM. Compared to London’s average rental price of £3,366 PCM, prospective tenants can secure more affordable housing for their budget in Woking.

Over the last 12 months, property prices in Woking increased by 8% in Woking, with the average cost of housing currently at £544,035 (Rightmove).

High Wycombe is a large market town in Buckinghamshire located halfway between London and Oxford.

It is a well-connected commuter belt location which is just 30 minutes by train from London Marylebone, plus it boasts a fast rail route to Birmingham and access to the motorway network.

The prestige of living in High Wycombe has seen house prices in this idyllic town climb by 8% over the last year, with the average values reaching £381,015.

With the news of the successful bid for an £11.7 million Government’s Future High Streets Fund (FHSF), property prices in the town are likely to continue as regeneration projects come into fruition over the next few years.
High Wycombe is a strong contender for capital growth potential, with opportunities near the train station likely to appeal to investors and renters alike.

Luton is one of the most affordable commuter towns and offers a fast 22-minute train to London.

With the average cost of property at £292,660 – up 5% over the last year – Luton has a few things going for it that will see the demand for housing in the town rise.

Home to one of the country’s busiest airports, London Luton Airport (LLA) is an Enterprise Zone which is on track to undergo a significant expansion as part of the London Luton Airport Vision for Sustainable Growth 2020-2050 plan.

As a result, the demand for new property developments will increase. Luton is a prime example of a commuter belt hotspot with low entry-level pricing, excellent transport links, and fast connections to London.

Surrenden Invest insight

Property located in London’s commuter belt has naturally emerged as a popular choice for Buy-to-Let investors seeking lower entry-level investment opportunities to produce reliable yields and potentially rise in value significantly.

Fierce competition on the market from first-time buyers and homeowners means that most developments are sold off-plan or spend very little time on the sales market. Researching where to invest in advance will put Buy-to-Let investors in a better position to act quickly when an opportunity is presented on the market.

As a leader in our field, Surrenden Invest provides property investors with access to fully managed buy-to-let opportunities in the best-performing towns and cities across London’s commuter belt.

Our exclusive relationships with leading developments mean that we can market Buy-to-Let opportunities to our clients before they are available on the open market.

BIRMINGHAM
%PA202020212022202320242020-24
PRICES2.0%3.0%3.5%3.5%3.5%16.5%
RENTS3.0%3.0%3.5%3.0%2.5%15.9%

Hull property hotspot

Despite £1.5 billion worth of investment over a relatively short period, Hull is spearheading an ambitious and forward-thinking approach to its next chapter. The Council’s dedication to creating a greener, eco-friendly city is paving the way for how Hull will take shape over the next few years, positioning it as a global leader in green energy.

Hull is undoubtedly building on its success over the last eight years to deliver a unique offering to investors, businesses, and residents alike. These are just some of the reasons why the experts at Surrenden Invest believe it is destined to provide our clients with robust returns. Factoring current market conditions and future growth, Surrenden Invest has acquired a limited number of city centre apartments in Hull that offer our clients the opportunity to own a new-build apartment in an area where space is a premium.

Having flown under the radar for some time now, Hull’s strong market fundamentals are likely to attract the attention of investors who are looking for better value for money or an opportunity to diversify. With rising demand and a lower-than-average pipeline of new-build properties, Hull clearly represents investors with an opportunity to capitalise on this up-and-coming market.

Download your London market essentials guide for 2022

As one of the world’s most sought-after property investment locations, London continues to prove its resilience yet, commuter belt locations offer significantly higher returns. Discover what is driving growth in and around the Capital.

Download Now

Stay ahead

Register your details to receive the latest market updates and property development news.