Christmas is often a catalyst for moving house. A houseful of guests shows you just how cramped your London home has become, or perhaps a visit to someone’s country pad inspires you to start looking at making a move.
If you currently live and work in London, and have no plans to up sticks and find a new job elsewhere, moving out of London will probably involving looking at the home counties. Essex, Kent, Surrey, and Hertfordshire are traditionally viewed as the home counties because of their close proximity to the capital.
In this post I’m going to look at moving to Essex, exploring the best areas to buy and the things you need to think about if you’re planning to commute into London.
Why Move To Essex?
Unless you live there or visit regularly, chances are you have slightly preconceived ideas about what Essex is like. Stereotypical ‘Essex Girl’ jokes haven’t helped, nor has TV show The Only Way Is Essex, but as you might expect this doesn’t reflect the whole of county at all. As with other regions of the UK, Essex has plenty to attract people from all walks of life; you don’t need fake tan to live here!
The county has many attractive towns that offer good shopping and leisure activities, a variety of housing, excellent schools, transport links etc. Essex also boasts some stunning countryside and coastline. The Thames Estuary is flanked by seaside resorts like Southend – including funfairs, the pier, games arcades, fish and chips etc. – but once past Shoeburyness there are stretches of mudflats, salt marshes and creeks, much of which are nature reserves and therefore protected from development.
Where To Move To In Essex
If you’re planning to commute to a job in London, a decent train service will be a top priority. So the towns below are chosen based on that criteria first, then on other nice to haves. Of course, you might like to be more rural and opt for a village that’s an easy trip to a mainline station, so I’ve also included a few villages around these hubs to give you more options.
Before starting your property search, I would highly recommend that you get your finances in order. Find out how much you can afford, get a Mortgage Offer In Principle and if you need to sell your current property to make the move, get it on the market! Then you’ll be in a much stronger position to put an offer in on the right property.
Chelmsford – if you’re not quite ready to leave the city
Chelmsford is Essex’s county town but is actually a city. As such it offers shops, entertainment, sporting activities, pubs and restaurants, as well as job opportunities if you’re thinking of quitting the capital completely.
Commuting to Liverpool Street is easy, 35 minutes and four trains an hour. An annual season ticket costs £3,832.00*. Stansted airport is also just half an hour away for you jetsetters. Schools are generally ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’ if you have children, or are planning a family when you move, and on average a semi-detached family home will set you back £369,273*.
Overall the average price of property in Chelmsford is £341,475, with the majority of sales involving flats in the last year. Nearby Old Moulsham is a little cheaper and desirable (£322,170), or consider moving further out, and paying more, to a popular village like Great Waltham (£414,954).
Colchester – get back to Roman roots
Colchester was a Roman garrison town and was actually the UK’s first city, more important than London at that time. Now it’s popular because of its historic buildings, period houses and it’s location – not far from the coast but still close enough to London to be part of the commuter belt.
That said, a train to London Liverpool Street does take 55-60 minutes, so Colchester might be on the outer reaches of your search. Season tickets currently cost £4,928.00, but you might be prepared to pay this to get more property for less money (compared to towns situated closer to London).
The average property price in Colchester is £260,549*, with semi-detached properties fetching £269,936. Schools are a big draw for families, with many rated ‘good’ and ‘outstanding’.
Outside of Colchester villages in the Colne Valley, such as Earls Colne are very popular with people working in the City. Overall average prices in Earls Colne are higher at £309,702*.
Saffron Walden – if you like medieval market towns
This area of the county boasts some of the most expensive property as a result of being picturesque, and steeped in history. There are over 3,500 listed buildings in the district of Uttlesford and Saffron Walden, a naturally these don’t come cheap.
However, if you have the budget what’s not to like? A good range different period property – as well as suburban housing – good schools, shops and leisure activities, weekly markets and commuting distance to London.
An annual season ticket to London Liverpool Street from Audley End will set you back £4,380.00*, and the train journey takes 55 minutes on average. Saffron Walden is also very well connected for Stansted Airport – some might say too close – just a 15 minute drive.
Saffron Walden itself is affordable – many of the neighbouring villages are a lot more expensive – with an average property price of £371,804*. Semis are around the £389,000 mark, with flats closer to £197,000.
For country life Clavering is nearby with the average price for property current standing at £530,079*.
Southend-On-Sea – traditional seaside resort
Southend may be closer to the stereotypical image of Essex, but it’s not all fake tan, bare legs and high heels on a cold January night out. In recent years there have been attempts to gentrify the town with arts festivals and Jamie and Jimmy filming TV shows in the café on the pier, but it still retains that traditional seaside appeal.
Schools are good or outstanding so great for families, and there are lots of residential areas such as Westcliff, Chalkwell and Leigh-On-Sea to bring up the kids.
Property is priced affordably, especially for those selling up in London, with average property prices currently at £272,748. Areas that are popular with families such as Westcliff-On-Sea are also similarly priced, although Thorpe Bay (the posher end) is more expensive with house prices averaging at £505,592.
It will take you around 60 minutes to get to London from Southend, but there are five to seven trains per hour. An annual season ticket from Southend East costs £3,408.00. Southend Airport is also a draw flying to many European destinations.
If you want to be in this part of Essex but Southend is not for you, Brentwood (£££), Billericay or Rayleigh might be worth a look.
Like I said before, if you’re seriously thinking about moving to Essex, it’s really important to sort out your finances first. Then you’ll know exactly how much you’ve got to spend, and be in the a good position to get an offer accepted on a property when you see the right place. Increasingly estate agents are not letting people view properties until they’ve got a Mortgage Offer In Principle and have put their own house on the market (if necessary); so while window shopping is great to see what an area is like and what’s available, serious buyers will have all of this lined up first.
If you are struggling to find a mortgage, give me a call and we can explore your circumstances in more detail. Call 020 3355 4841 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
* All figures correct at the time of publishing