With homeworking becoming more normal and crowded commutes seeming less appealing than ever, it’s no surprise that many Londoners are thinking about moving elsewhere.
Philip Harvey, a senior partner with consultancy Property Vision, says he predicts a parallel rise in two types of new property hotspots: working and lifestyle destinations – with the latter largely competing on their hospitality and leisure offerings.
‘Given these ‘lifestyle’ areas won’t be defined by a particular employer or industry – unlike, say, Basingstoke and its IT industry – their aim will be to show how residents can make the most of the destination itself, whatever their career status might be,’ he says.
If you’re thinking of leaving the capital, here are seven destinations that might be worth a look:
A medieval city with hundreds of years of history, Norwich is slowly shaking off its sedate image – thanks partly to a growing technology and research sector that’s drawing in more well-heeled young professionals. And its food scene is up on the up too – with Japanese eatery Shiki’s described by Jay Rayner as ‘terrific, not just for East Anglia but for anywhere in Britain’.
Property-wise, the latest development making waves is St James Quay, part of a stylish regeneration of the central riverside area. The one-, two-, and three-bedroom apartments will come onto the market this month, offering contemporary accommodation just a short walk from the medieval castle. One bedroom options start from £259,950.
Previously named one of the best places to live in Britain by the Sunday Times, St Albans is quickly transforming itself from a commuter bolthole into a living spot that packs a punch in its own right. And with its historic cinemas, popular restaurants and plush hotels (including The Grove, where President Obama played golf with then prime minister David Cameron), you can see why.
Gabriel Square, by Meyer Homes, is a collection of award-winning townhouses, apartments and duplexes set around a landscaped garden square in the city. Sales have been moving quickly – but some remain on the market, ranging from £965,000 to £1.3m.
Oxford has long been a big draw for London exiles, with house prices rising almost as quickly as the capital. Not only is the city home to a first-rate selection of independent retailers, it also boasts decent gastro pubs and Michelin-starred restaurants. And that’s before we get to the nearby beauty spots of the Cotswolds, Chiltern Hills and North Wessex Down.
Jericho has always been the hippest part of town, with prices to match. Its colourful terraces lining the canal mixed with regular markets and independent cafes are an obvious draw. But for a better chance at a bargain, try looking around the newly opened Oxford Parkway station. Areas such as Kidlington and Yarnton are within easy reach of the station where trains will take you into London in less than 50 minutes.
If you needed another reason to consider Oxford, take a look at Parklands Manor in nearby Besselsleigh. Set on the site of a former 140-year-old Victorian manor house, the building has been thoughtfully transformed by Millgate Homes into stylish apartments in a stunning country estate setting. Prices start from £305,000 with Help to Buy available.
While it might not have the same draw as – say – Tunbridge Wells, Rochester is currently enjoying somewhat of a bounce, thanks in part to some ambitious regeneration schemes and the first ripples of a cultural renaissance. On the latter, the city’s famous Dickensian Christmas has been drawing big crowds for years (although will of course be on hiatus this year), while the high street has won praise for its independent spirit.
Rochester Riverside is a £419m landmark regeneration scheme offering one- and two-bedroom apartments as well as larger houses, all with views of the River Medway and Rochester Castle. The development has begun to draw in first-time buyers who had previously been renting in the capital. Prices start from £220,000 with Help to Buy available.
Of course it’s not just London that has lost its shine – workers and young families in Manchester will likely be planning similar escapes. When it comes to the Greater Manchester area, one option stands out. The picturesque suburb of Worsley – sometimes referred to as ‘Salford with trees’ – is known for its scenic walks and classic village feel, while still sitting within easy reach of the big city itself. And with prices significantly below those in nearby Chester (a hotspot for the city’s footballers), Worsley is looking a good bet for a value buy.
If the idea of a country escape floats your boat, expect to pay around £800,000 for a decent-sized family house. If you’re in the market for a bargain – and have the appetite for some renovations – £300,000 will get you a three-bedroom Tudor ‘character property’, while £2.4m can get you a 6 bedroom villa with one acre of private greenery.
While Southampton might not be the most obvious choice for what estate agents call ‘aspirational’ young 30-somethings, the city is well-placed to benefit from a post-coronavirus boost. With a Michelin-starred restaurant (The Jetty), a sailing hotspot and a theatre that regularly attracts touring versions of West End shows, Southampton has more than just decent transport links to the capital.
Good quality homes are on offer too. Inland Homes and St Arthur Homes have been busy building new homes by the waterside, with the parallel developments of Chapel Riverside and Meridian Waterside. Apartments start from £180,000 with Help to Buy available.
Areas on the periphery of Southampton like Hamble have a coastal vibe that will appeal to those looking to rediscover their sea legs and go sailing. For those looking to go even more rural then Bishops Waltham is an attractive country market town on the edge of the South Downs and a fifteen minute drive away from Eastleigh station (trains to London Waterloo in 1 hour). Just north of the city is Romsey which boasts a pretty town centre, good train connections from nearby Chandler’s Ford and great schools to boot.
For an upmarket option perfect for anyone who still needs occasional access to London, why not look to Windsor? With world-class golf courses, enviable access to Heathrow and of course some of the most prestigious schools in the country, the Berkshire town has much in its favour. With enviable amounts of perfectly maintained green space, riverside views and a high street that wraps itself around the barricades of Windsor Castle, it’s time more of us discovered the Queen’s favourite residence.
Magna Carta Park is a brand-new development from Royalton Residences providing a 21st century private estate across some 57 acres of woodland and private grounds. With exceptional amenities – including a boutique health service, a spa with hydrotherapy pool, and the chance to take tennis and golf lessons on site – you can understand why this one is garnering attention. Prices range from £1.3m to £4.75m.