Cheap English seaside town wanted, funkiess a plus
June 20, 2010 2:25 AM   Subscribe

Leaving London: tell us about Southeastern English coastal towns …

We're paying off our mortgage and re-evaluating that little thing called "our lives".

As part of this we're seriously questioning the need to be in in London and have recently begun to look at property in coastal towns, in the South East specifically. We've spent time down Brighton / Hove way, and while attractive from many perspectives we're both frugal and real estate in that part of Britain is priced up to London levels.

Requirements: cheap tops our list, a reasonable amount of culture (we're not expecting a Shoreditch type arts and music scene, but would like something), non xenophobic community (I'm American and Mrs Mutant is Dutch), fast internet (I've recently migrated some of my University lecturing to on-line delivery, expect to do lots more in the future and we're currently spoiled with a very stable 20Mbs connection but can make do with perhaps 8Mbs) and reliable transport to London with one way trip time of no more than two hours (I still plan to lecture a couple of days a week in London, and as we'll be renting our current flat I may have to return to The East End for maintenance).

On the money side we're looking to buy, with a budget of roughly £150K and are looking for at least a three bedroom. I'm handy so "in need of modernisation" is fine with us, especially so if it lowers the offer side. While terraced or semi is ok, clearly detached is better but we would prefer to avoid flats unless they present exceptional value for money. Freehold preferred (but I suspect the entire wretched leaseholder thing is London specific).

Online, we're considering Felixstowe, Southend-on-sea and Stanford-le-hope. We're planning to head out to evaluate these towns and property in person, but we'd like more options.
posted by Mutant to Home & Garden (18 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
As a foreigner who lived in Leigh-on-Sea (near Southend) I would be hesitant to support Southend... it's a LONG way from Brighton(culturally), in my experience. There are probably some committed Southend-ers who will say otherwise, but while there were a couple of cool bars, it didn't seem like the most open-minded, culturally thriving place. Actually, I kind of thought it was awful.... Leigh-on-Sea has some nice pockets though. It's smaller and considerably less intense. I'm not sure of prices, sorry, as I rented but can vouch for the internet!
posted by jojobobo at 2:42 AM on June 20, 2010

Colour me confused but I think you are trying to ask about East Anglia specifically Essex and Suffolk The SW is in the other direction and a lot further away. You might want to ask a mod to fix this.
posted by adamvasco at 2:43 AM on June 20, 2010

£150k isn't going to get you much anywhere in the south I'm afraid.

Lots of nice towns around and about though. Brighton is an anomaly culture-wise, but I've spent time in and enjoyed places along or near the Dorset coast including Bournemouth (pick your part); Chichester and Weymouth.

Worth also noting that travel time isn't a very reliable proxy for distance. You could take 2 hours to get into London from 40 miles away if you picked your location badly. Look along the west and east coast main lines, the main line from London to south wales and the line from London south to Southampton and Bournemouth. By your other criteria (unless you were to relax from 'coastal' to 'nice countryside'), that probably realistically puts you down towards Dorset.
posted by bifter at 3:50 AM on June 20, 2010

Best answer: bifter: "Brighton is an anomaly culture-wise, but I've spent time in and enjoyed places along or near the Dorset coast including Bournemouth (pick your part); Chichester and Weymouth."

Chichester would be my nod from those three when it comes to culture. Certainly it has a disproportionately good theatre scene for a city its size, largely due to the CFT. I suspect property skews extremely expensive, though.

The RFO lists are a quick way to see where the cultural centres lie in any given region, (although of course, they don't show any small scale/grass roots activity.)
posted by the latin mouse at 4:39 AM on June 20, 2010 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: adamvasco is correct; we're looking pretty much exclusively in the South East -- was typing and talking at the same time, never good - apologies for any misdirect and generally messing up the thread. Emailed mods to correct, thanks for pointing this out.

bifter -- "£150k isn't going to get you much anywhere in the south I'm afraid."

Curious, but where are you getting your data from? We've looked a lot on RightMove, and £150K will definitely get a three bed bungalow in Felixstowe. Of course we haven't gone to see these in person, and that is at the out edge of our search (two hours on the train), and they might look a lot different in person but that budget seems favourable, especially so compared to London.

the latin mouse -- many thanks, that's a very helpful web site.
posted by Mutant at 5:20 AM on June 20, 2010

Best answer: Do not move to Southend. I have extensive experience with Southend and while I like it as a day destination because I'm a fan of crummy, it's an awful place to live. It's where Romford goes to the beach and has its own local and not insignificant crime problem. Margate is more or less the same, maybe a bit better. Do. Not. Want.

I would suggest you overlay train routes that will serve you well over a map of the region and look at towns around stations within your commuting range.

Having said all of that, I think you should reconsider this whole thing. I get the "have paid off mortgage, are free to go anywhere!" thing but please consider the practical implications of growing old in a suburb. You must own a car. Unless you buy very carefully indeed, you must drive to shop and to visit people and to get medical services. You have no mortgage but you have the additional upkeep of a house and all of the perils that comes with that. And you have the fun and considerable expense of a two-hour train journey.

Oh joy.

More importantly, you are not going to find the culture or diversity of London anywhere in this region except maybe Brighton, ish. Leigh on Sea, while much nicer than Southend, is not exactly a hotbed of integration. I also don't think you can buy a 3-bed property of any description there for 150K.

If you don't care about living somewhere so homogenous the houses are crafted from Wonderbread, I would suggest looking in Clacton-on-Sea because it at least makes an effort (two theatres, an annual airshow, a fair) and to a lesser extent, nearby Frinton. Both of those places have properties in your price range, although you may need to go semi.

Pray for a book club.
posted by DarlingBri at 9:09 AM on June 20, 2010

Best answer: Well, the place has a bit of a dodgy/seamy reputation, but over the past five or so years I've known several people successfully and happily decamp from London to Hastings in East Sussex. It's certainly cheap – look and look again! – but I can't speak to its loveliness or otherwise having never actually been. However, I gather there's quite a thriving arts/alternative scene (in fact all the people I know who've moved there have been involved in the arts in some capacity) – and it's only an hour and half to Charing Cross, so it's got that in its favour too. Anyway, maybe it's worth a look?...
posted by HandfulOfDust at 9:34 AM on June 20, 2010 [2 favorites]

Chichester is lovely but there is not a single 3-bed house there for £150k.
posted by ellieBOA at 11:56 AM on June 20, 2010

Best answer: I get the "have paid off mortgage, are free to go anywhere!" thing but please consider the practical implications of growing old in a suburb. You must own a car. Unless you buy very carefully indeed, you must drive to shop and to visit people and to get medical services. You have no mortgage but you have the additional upkeep of a house and all of the perils that comes with that.

I've never driven in my life and not had a problem living anywhere. Visiting people in London takes a two-hour round trip, because it's huge. I wouldn't let any of this put you off.

Is Eastbourne too far out? Lovely quiet town, but not too small. Reputation for being an oldies place but still a short trip into Brighton for any culture you fancy. I have no idea about pricing but it is cheaper than Brighton. We visited Hastings last year - the old town is very pretty, there's lots of boutique/second-hand emporia which is usually a sign that there's something going on that isn't the identikit British High Street, but I don't know about the town beyond the centre (the main shopping bit seemed to have everything one might want, but also some fairly unpleasant looking pubs.)
posted by mippy at 12:39 PM on June 20, 2010

Best answer: Can I recommend the book Commuterland, which lists and (honestly) describes all the towns and villages along (or near) the major train lines into London. It also gives an idea on what house prices in the area are like, local schools, arts scene, etc. We found it invaluable when we were planning our move out of the city as we were able to focus our search to just a couple of areas.

If you're looking for somewhere with artistic tendencies, you might want to have a look at Whitstable in Kent (it was a bit too far out of town for us) - they're just in the middle of their fifth Biennale contemporary art festival. There are 3-bed houses to be found for £150k but I have to say they don't look particularly lovely...
posted by dogsbody at 12:40 PM on June 20, 2010 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I've been to Broadstairs for a day trip today. Was lovely although getting there went through some pretty soulless places with massive edge of town shopping centres. Anyway, check it out.
posted by Lleyam at 1:02 PM on June 20, 2010

Best answer: Seconding Mippy's vote for Eastbourne. It is chock full of old folks, and ESL students, but it really is a mellow, pleasant town, nice beach, easy access to the gorgeous South Downs for walking and lovely villages all around, 1.5 hours to London every hour (45mins to Gatwick)... you can probably find at least a 2 up-2 down in the town centre within your price range. Good schools too, if that's a consideration. Hastings would be cheaper, but I think it's still a bit on the grim side.
posted by Flashman at 1:41 PM on June 20, 2010

To add some more background. I grew up in a commuter village near lovely Enkhuizen about 60km out of Amsterdam and commuted from there for about 6 years (1.5 hrs single journey). Then I moved to the supposedly ugliest town of the Netherlands Almere. A commuter town where I lived for about 11 years. For the past 3 years we have lived together in an ex-council estate in Central London. I always had the luxury of not needing a car to go the supermarket, medical services and reliable transport. I also think London is the worst place thus far I have lived in (although it is great for having people over) so I am very interested in checking out some of your suggestions.
posted by Mrs Mutant at 1:57 PM on June 20, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Worth mentioning, perhaps, that Margate, Folkestone and Dover are now connected by the HS1 fast train into St Pancras by an hourly service.

All three, however, are cultural ghost towns. Dover in particular is a fucking shithole prone to anti-immigrant demonstrations.

The new (and nerdily-fascinating) Google UK Property Search suggests that there actually are a tiny handful of qualifying properties in Brighton.
posted by genghis at 2:47 PM on June 20, 2010

Best answer: Kent and Essex seaside towns are horrific and Hampshire's just aren't very nice places to live. I'd urge you to look harder and reconsider Brighton - if you're a little out of the city centre, it starts to become affordable.

Frankly, given your requirements, it's by far the best choice. It's no exaggeration to claim that the arts scene rivals that of East London, it's the most liberal city in the country, cable internet is blisteringly fast and trains into London take about an hour and can be had for less than two quid each way on weekdays.
posted by turkeyphant at 4:30 AM on June 21, 2010

Response by poster: Thanks everyone for the suggested locations; that was just the type information we were hoping to gain by posting.

FWIW, we certainly do know what we'd be giving up by leaving London, however our lifestyle isn't that plugged into a specific location, let alone this town. And besides, while we like access to live shows and art, we go to Tate Modern or The Globe and hit galleries only a couple of times a month; we can easily do that while living two hours out. We recognise and are prepared to accept the difference between just walking there vs. getting on a train.

Just to close this thread off, the £150K price point was chosen solely from a funding perspective; we can realise about 12% gross yield in the form of rental income on our London flat but only if we're not living in it. One of our key criteria for the inconvenience of moving was the next residence had to be 100% financed from the first, and we have budgeted accordingly. The choose of financing dictated we leave London and avoid London-like prices (Brighton or Hove). But it would appear there are no shortages of three bedroom homes available if carefully select the town, and I'm seeing lots of properties quoting catchphrases that get my frugal handy self all tingly ("in need of modernisation").

Finally our secondary filters will select or deselect properties according to accessibly to food / healthcare / etc, so while we appreciate the warnings we've already incorporated these factors into our decision making process. In any case, we're not looking for a fast move.

Thanks again everyone !
posted by Mutant at 9:11 AM on June 21, 2010

Best answer: I live close to Hastings and there's a lot of change over the 10 years I've been here that would recommend it. While the popular view (as with Eastbourne) of old folk and ESL students is still accurate, it doesn't begin to describe the kind of life you can lead simply by being selective.

Wednesday nights having a martini at the bar inside the electric palace arthouse cinema (and I mean inside the viewing area).

Gay businesspeople who were priced out of Brighton setting up restaurants/bars/businesses and actively contributing to the local commercial life. I'm convinced that the ongoing improvements in the Jack O' the Green festival, the seafood and wine festival, the bonfire societies owe quite a bit to this single effect but I might be wrong.

I need to be in London on about 2 days of the week, its a 1 hr 20 minute commute for me, but when on evenings or weekends I can walk either on the seafront or the country park, have a glass of wine while the sun goes down in the De La Warre pavillion, sit outside the George with friends in the Old Town, grow peppers and aubergines outdoors simply cos the climate is that good, go to a rural Flower show, or (gulp!) specialist Fuschia show!!, take my son quad biking or kite-gliding on Camber Sands, pop over to Bolounge sur Mer for lunch on Sundays (return on the ferry £24, stock up on cheeses, pate and wine, priceless) a 50 minute drive to Dover at 7am on Sunday am, the popular image of Hastings seems a million miles away.

One thing I found bizarre when I moved to the UK is people's stick-in-the-mud attitude. Loads of people I know here complain bitterly about how it's not London and Brighton and yet never seek out the experiences I'm describing. It's like because they've lived here all their lives they've made up their minds that it is boring. I get that mindset, I really do, and if I'd had to live my life in my home town I would probably share it, but I had to move here and create a life. You can either create one that's fulfilling and look out for the unusual, or stagnate. It's pretty much an easy choice down here on the south coast. But see for yourself, come visit!
posted by Wilder at 12:37 AM on June 22, 2010 [3 favorites]

Late late late to this, but I know people who've successfully decamped to Rye and maintain a relatively pleasant commute to London; I also know people who've moved whole-hog to Margate, which is slightly less of a cultural ghost town than it used to be, given the whole Turner Contemporary thing and the gamble of quite a few Londoners that the only way is up for the place, and who keep a close eye on any properties that become available at knock-down prices. (MeMail me if you want introductions.)
posted by holgate at 10:40 PM on January 13, 2011

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