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Post-pandemic London commuter belt property hotspots

By Surrenden Invest | March 29, 2022
It is safe to say that the pandemic has changed people’s lives up and down the country. As the nation adapts to the ‘new normal’, the widespread introduction of flexible working, changes to commuter patterns, and the general approach to everyday life have changed the shape of what people want and need from their home environment.
As a result, city-centre living has changed across the UK, with London bearing the brunt of significant lifestyle changes. According to PwC, around 300,000 people left the city last year in light of the pandemic. What’s more, with London’s average office occupancy rate at 28% in December 2021 and TfL passenger numbers only at 41% of pre-pandemic levels, many city workers have not fully transitioned back into the office full time.

50%

almost 50% of London companies whose staff can work from home expect them to do so up to five days a week when the pandemic ends.

11.6%

Average cost of inner London rents falling by 11.6% (£305 less) when compared to the start of the pandemic.

2.0%

London has recorded the lowest level of house price growth across the UK, with values increasing by just 2% throughout 2021.

313%

Research suggests that average housing costs in an inner commuter belt location have risen by 313% over the past two decades.
Instead, according to Bloomberg, almost 50% of London companies whose staff can work from home expect them to do so up to five days a week when the pandemic ends, with smaller companies more likely to continue with remote working.
Naturally, as fewer people are required to work in the Capital daily, workers have reassessed their living situation. As a result, many people have opted to move out of the city and into commuter belt locations that offer good value for money whilst accessing a fast commute when required in the office.
This trend has been reflected across London’s property market, with the average cost of inner London rents falling by 11.6% (£305 less) when compared to the start of the pandemic. Moreover, according to Zoopla, over the last 12 months, London has recorded the lowest level of house price growth across the UK, with values increasing by just 2% throughout 2021.
As London’s annual rental growth and the potential for capital gains lags behind the rest of the country, evidence of the growing demand for real estate in the Greater London area – particularly in established commuter towns – is on the rise.
In this feature, the property experts at Surrenden Invest look at the best London commuter belt locations for buy-to-let investors in 2022 and what’s driving the demand for property outside of the Capital.

What is the London commuter belt?

London’s commuter belt has no fixed boundary and includes towns and cities in the South East and East of England. Therefore, locations with a direct train route into London are most favourable. However, major road links are often just as important.
The demand for property in commutable locations has steadily grown over the last 20 years, with Londoners escaping the Capital due to soaring living costs and the emergence of more reliable train links into the city. Research suggests that average housing costs in an inner commuter belt location have risen by 313% over the past two decades, transforming some areas into standalone property hotspots in their own right.

Best London commuter towns 2022

According to CBRE, the appeal of London commuter belt towns is more than just affordable house prices and travel times. Instead, those moving away from the Capital are looking to achieve a better work-life balance, opting for locations with convenient amenities and plenty of open green spaces. In addition, areas with an established identity within the commuter belt have been associated with a higher demand for homes.
However, property investors searching for an up-and-coming location with a lower price tag will be interested in some of Surrenden Invest’s best London commuter towns in 2022.

Sevenoaks

Sevenoaks is a prime example of a commuter belt location that has emerged as a UK property hotspot in its own right. According to a new Savills report, Sevenoaks has emerged as one of the most in-demand commuter towns over the last 12 months. And it is easy to see why. With regular trains running from Sevenoaks to Central London taking just 22 minutes, this picturesque town in Kent has seen average property values rise to £664,145, with values increasing by 9% over the last 12 months, according to Zoopla.
While Sevenoaks has emerged as sought-after locations for those escaping London, affordability remains a deciding factor, with the most desirable areas commanding the highest house prices and strongest demand. Given the established nature of the property market in Sevenoaks, where property values are not far from cost in London, savvy investors should consider options with a significantly lower entry-level onto the market whilst offering similar, if not the same, long-term gains.

Redhill

Located 20 miles from London, the town of Redhill in leafy Surrey has emerged as a firm favourite for renters and buyers alike who are looking to escape the daily commute in favour of a better work-life balance. Boasting excellent transport links with direct trains to London Victoria and London Bridge in around 30 minutes, plus easy access to the M23, M25, and Gatwick Airport, it is easy to see why Redhill has been named London’s second-best commuter town.
According to data published by Rightmove, the average house price in Redhill currently stands at £419,626. Housing values increased by 5% over the last 12 months in Redhill, further highlighting the popularity of this commuter belt hotspot.
However, the town has much more to offer its residents than an easy commute. Redhill’s ideal location and excellent transport links have helped the town establish itself as a business hub in its own right, housing the headquarters of large multinational companies, including SES Water, Santander Consumer Finance, AXA breakdown assistance, Travelers Insurance, and Aon.
For property investors, the town’s position between significant employment hubs, its strong local employment prospects, and excellent transport links means that demand for housing in Redhill is likely to remain high for the foreseeable future. As a result, property in the town offers buy-to-let investors the opportunity to secure a strong ROI from an undersaturated property market.

Woking

Recently named one of the best UK towns to live in by The Times, Woking is in the heart of the commuter belt and is just 20 miles from central London. Boasting frequent trains into the capital with an approximate journey time of 24 minutes, Woking has been ranked the sixth most attractive London commuter location by estate agent Jackson-Stops.
Residents also have easy access to the M3 and M25, plus Heathrow airport is also only a 30-minute drive away. However, Woking has more to offer its residents excellent transport connections. In fact, as commuter belt locations go, Woking has established itself as a cultural hub in the leafy county of Surrey. It is home to various attractions, including a world-class theatre, an award-winning museum, plus the town regularly hosts international exhibitions and food festivals.
Woking’s town centre offers its residents the best of both worlds. With a large shopping district that includes a variety of shops, bars and restaurants, access to open green spaces in the surrounding areas, and the picturesque Goldworth Park, Woking has emerged as a destination within its own right. Given the £460 million Victoria Square regeneration, which includes the construction of new-builds, a Hilton Hotel with a sky bar, a vast Marks & Spencer superstore, plus additional commercial space, this commuter town is likely to remain a top target for investors.
With a large number of renters looking to commuter towns like Woking, which offer more affordable rental property, buy-to-let investors are in a prime position to provide housing to accommodate the rising demand from tenants. Those comparing property investments will be interested to know that according to data published by Rightmove, the average house price in Woking currently stands at £544,035.
Over the last year, values soared by 8% in Woking, as more people move away from London in their droves. And, when it comes to the rental market, there are plenty of positives for investors and renters alike.
Data released by Home.co.uk shows that the average rent in Woking is currently £1,562 PCM. Compared to London, where the average property rents for £3,366 PCM, prospective tenants stand to save money and secure a more spacious property to suit their budget.
However, it is not just locations located south of London that draw Londoners away from the city.

High Wycombe

Located halfway between London and Oxford, High Wycombe is a well-connected commuter belt location with fast rail links to London and Birmingham. It also has the additional benefit of offering direct access to the motorway network. With access to London Marylebone station taking around 30 minutes, High Wycombe is a large market town in Buckinghamshire.
As an established property hotspot, the prestige of living in High Wycombe has helped to see property values in this quaint town climb by 8% over the last 12 months, with the average value of housing currently standing at £381,015. Property values in the town are likely to climb over the foreseeable future, especially in light of the successful bid for an £11.7 million Government’s Future High Streets Fund (FHSF). High Wycombe will see a wave of regeneration projects across its town centre and infrastructure improvements over the next few years.
Buy-to-let investors searching for capital growth potential should consider High Wycombe for future opportunities, with the aim of securing property near the train station to maximise its appeal to commuters. Click here for a sneak peek of our available buy-to-let apartments in High Wycombe.

Luton

Located just 22 minutes from central London and with London Luton Airport (LLA) classified as one of only 24 Enterprise Zones across the whole of England, Luton is a burgeoning town that could see massive growth in the years ahead. Strengthened by the recent announcement of a significant expansion for LLA as part of the London Luton Airport Vision for Sustainable Growth 2020-2050 plan, the coming years could see increasing scope for new property development to cater for the rising demand for property.
What’s more, with the average property price currently standing at £292,660 (up 5% over the last 12 months), Luton provides buy-to-let investors with a significantly lower entry-level option for those considering buying a commuter belt property.

Outlook for commuter belt property

Although on the surface, it appears that the pandemic has driven city workers out of London, the fact is that the amount of people relocating outside of the capital has been an ongoing trend, with many first-time buyers and renters moving out due to affordability issues.
Looking to the future, the 5-year forecast for South East England and the East of England is strong, with property values expected to climb by 10.4% between 2021 and 2026 in both regions (Savills). Compared to London, where house prices are forecast to rise by 5.6% over the same period, investors can expect to see almost double the growth rate from an investment property located in London’s commuter belt.

If you are considering investing in London commuter belt property in 2022, contact Surrenden Invest for more information about our latest selection of buy-to-let investments.

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