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Buy a family home that costs less than a London Zone 2 flat in these market towns

Evening Standard Homes & Property logoEvening Standard Homes & Property 20/03/2019 Ruth Bloomfield
a group of people walking on a city street © Provided by Independent Digital News & Media Limited

The cost of housing in London is driving increasing numbers out of the city.

According a new poll by YouGov, four in 10 Londoners have considered moving out in search of better value.

In the latest in Homes & Property’s series looking at the best market towns within commuting distance we highlight Surrey, with its ravishing countryside and excellent commuter links.

Though Surrey is the most expensive of the home counties, a quality family home in one of its charming historic towns still costs less than a modern flat in Zone 2.

Buying a home in Godalming

This small town, often overshadowed by its bigger, more famous near-neighbour Guildford, is the perfect example of how to save money by moving down the train line from a commuter hotspot.

The average property price in Godalming is £458,000, but that hides a multitude of sins.

The poshest streets are in the suburb of Busbridge, where large houses with big gardens sit southeast of the town and on the very edge of the South Downs.

A detached four-bedroom house would cost from £800,000 to £1.5 million, says Daniel Vasey, a partner at Warren Powell-Richards estate agents.

For buyers with a smaller budget he recommends Farncombe, a family-friendly suburb where you could buy a three- to four-bedroom family home for about £600,000.

A downside here, and indeed throughout Godalming, is that although there are some great Victorian and Edwardian streets there is also rather too much boxy post-war housing.

a house with trees in the background: £450,000: a three-bedroom semi in Latimer Road, Godalming. Through Gasgoine-Pees (01483 660015) © Provided by Independent Digital News & Media Limited £450,000: a three-bedroom semi in Latimer Road, Godalming. Through Gasgoine-Pees (01483 660015)

If proximity to the station is key, there is a small enclave of Victorian streets just south of the High Street where you could find a three-bedroom house for between £500,000 and £550,000.

Vasey estimates that prices have dropped about two per cent in the last year and blames Brexit blues, but he says homes are still trading, and at prices 10 to 15 per cent less than in Guildford, which is four miles away and not technically a market town.

Just like Guildford, Godalming has an attractive town centre, with a mixture of Tudor timber-framed buildings, Georgian and Victorian houses, plus local landmark The Pepperpot, the pink-painted octagonal former town hall in the High Street, now a function room.

A walk or boat trip along the River Wey makes for a restful afternoon and if you want more of a cardio workout there are also local football, rugby and cricket clubs.

The surrounding countryside is full of gems: wander among the trees at the National Trust’s Winkworth Arboretum, or lose yourself on foot or by bike in the Surrey Hills or South Downs.

For shopping and socialising Godalming has plenty of nice old pubs, including The Star and The White Horse, and a distressingly high proportion of mid-range chain restaurants. For food shopping, beyond Waitrose, both the Godalming Food Company and Secretts farm shop more than make up for the lack of Whole Foods Market.

Need to know: Godalming

Market forces: there has been a street market in Godalming since 1300 and every Friday locals shop for clothes, food, homewares, flowers and pretty much everything else at the town market.

Commuting: from 44 minutes to Waterloo. An annual season ticket costs from £3,984.

Schools: the famous Charterhouse independent school is just on the outskirts of town, but in the state sector it’s pretty much “good”. Ofsted reports all round at primary level, while Broadwater School, for seniors, is also rated “good” by the schools watchdog.

Buying a home in Reigate

Surrey really does do a great line in affluent market towns, and Reigate is a prime example with boutiques and cafés lining pretty Reigate High Street and good-quality period houses in the roads around. The town has an Everyman Cinema and several microbreweries — Crumbs Brewing makes its beer out of leftover bread from a local bakery.

There are plenty of restaurants and alongside chains, options include Cormona for tapas and La Barbe for upscale French food.

Green space includes the grounds of Reigate Castle; Priory Park, with lots of events including ice skating in the winter, and Reigate Heath, complete with windmill.

For more wide open space the North Downs are close, as is Gatwick airport for holidays.

a city street: Bell Street, in the bustling, picturesque heart of affluent Reigate (Alamy Stock Photo) © Provided by Independent Digital News & Media Limited Bell Street, in the bustling, picturesque heart of affluent Reigate (Alamy Stock Photo)

Steven Stokes, head of Savills’ Reigate office, says exiting Londoners pay between £650,000 and £800,000 for a three- to four-bedroom period semi.

Those commuting to central London cluster around Reigate station while those needing access to the City buy to the east of town where they can go instead to Redhill station for direct trains to London Bridge.

Need to know: Reigate

Market forces: a weekend food and craft market was launched in the town last year.

Commuting: from 46 minutes to Victoria. An annual season ticket costs from £2,939.

Schools: Reigate Priory Community Junior School, Reigate Parish Church Primary School, and for seniors, Reigate School and St Bede’s School, all merit “outstanding” Ofsted reports

Buying a home in Dorking

Scoring highly on the cute and quaint scale, Dorking is a charming country market town which is less in thrall to London than towns closer to the capital.

Surrounded by the Surrey Hills, it has great schools, plus interesting antiques and vintage shops in West Street, while Dorking Halls has a programme of film, live music, theatre and comedy.

Dorking’s foodie reputation is well deserved, whether you fancy fine dining at Steve Drake’s Sorrel Restaurant, superior gastropub fare at The Queen’s Head, or a traditional cooked breakfast at The Jampot Café.

Denbies, England’s largest vineyard, runs daily tours and recently opened a guesthouse. Property prices in the area are fairly constant and the web of villages surrounding Dorking has much to offer.

a large city landscape: View of the market town of Dorking, nestled in the Popp Brook valley between the North Downs and the Greensand Ridge (Getty Images/iStockphoto) © Provided by Independent Digital News & Media Limited View of the market town of Dorking, nestled in the Popp Brook valley between the North Downs and the Greensand Ridge (Getty Images/iStockphoto)

The average home costs just over £440,000, which would buy a three-bedroom semi. But if you aspire to live in Deepdene, Dorking’s alpha neighbourhood, you are probably going to need three times that budget for a family house.

There are regular commuter trains in about an hour to Waterloo, Victoria and London Bridge and the M25 and Gatwick airport are handy.

Need to know: Dorking

Market forces: the town’s traditional Friday outdoor market sells fruit and veg, flowers, homewares and groceries.

Commuting: trains to Victoria, Waterloo or London Bridge all take just under an hour from the town’s three stations. An annual season ticket costs from £2,980.

Schools: among generally high-performing primary schools, St Paul’s CofE (Aided) Primary School shines with an “outstanding” Ofsted report. For seniors, The Ashcombe School and The Priory CofE Voluntary Aided School are rated “good”.

Gallery: Harry Redknapp's £3.5million Dorset home has to be seen to be believed [Hello!]

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