Help us buy somewhere to live outside of London!
June 26, 2017 1:30 AM   Subscribe

We're looking to sell our pokey two bedroom flat in London and buy a four bedroom house with garden that is close to good schools and doesn't take more than an hour to get to Canary Wharf and Zone 1. What websites/resources would you recommend to help us decide where to live?

Other things which may or may not help:

* We know how much we can spend, so something that tells us if 4 bedroom houses in an area is affordable would be useful. Rightmove calculates an average price but it's useless as it includes purchases of properties which are way too small for us (so pulling down the average)
* We expect to go somewhere on a frequent (every 10 minutes or so?) fast railway line so that we can be further out of London but without making the commuting unbearable.
* Neither of us wants to go east or west of London, so north and south is about as far as we've narrowed it down.
* Somewhere served by Southern Trains will probably be discounted.
* We need to consider both good primary and secondary schools.

Websites we know about: Rightmove, Zoopla and Commutefrom
posted by mr_silver to Home & Garden (11 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
You need to know the commute. 15 years ago I was you - in general the Shenfield - Chelmsford - Colchester line is on the right side of London for Canary Wharf/Liverpool Street, has a lot of trains and a mostly good service where you can sit down, and relatively affordable housing.

Check rightmove for places like Shenfield, Chelmsford, Witham, Marks Tey, Colchester, maybe Manningtree (a bit further out), and check the train timetables as well.

(I moved to Chelmsford and never looked back - it's always worked out well for me ;) ).
posted by plep at 1:34 AM on June 26, 2017

I'm not sure where commutefrom gets its data but also provides travel times so might be useful to validate possible areas
posted by crocomancer at 2:22 AM on June 26, 2017

Mumsnet - post in AIBU as it's the busiest forum (so phrase the question "AIBU to want a four bedroom house within 1hr of Canary Wharf for £x"). If you give your budget and commute time, people will tell you which areas fit those criteria, and the downsides to that area.

I do think that trains every ten minutes is a bit unrealistic outside of London - "frequent" usually means every 15-30mins. I don't have trains every ten minutes, and I'm in Zone 2. If you are also excluding east, west, and anywhere served by Southern, you don't have many options left.
posted by tinkletown at 4:03 AM on June 26, 2017 [1 favorite]

Enfield Town is 35 mins to Liverpool Street.
Enfield Chase is 35 mins to Old Street.
posted by oh pollo! at 4:10 AM on June 26, 2017 [1 favorite]

Seems like Canary Wharf is part of your problem since it is already 20-30mins from all the major rail stations, isn't it?

What is the easiest main rail station to access from Canary Wharf, and where do trains from there go? Seems to be the obvious approach to the problem.
posted by mary8nne at 7:27 AM on June 26, 2017

Easiest mainline station for Canary Wharf will be London Bridge, which would point you towards the south-east. Do you have strong views either way about grammar schools? If you do, it could mean that Kent is or isn't the obvious answer.

The reason this is difficult is that a four-bed house with a garden and a short commute and a great school around the corner is what more or less everyone who ever moved out of London has been looking for, ever since the railways were first built 150+ years ago. You don't say what your budget is, but if it's finite, you'll be looking at some compromises. Could be commuting time, location, period, size of house, size of garden, how much building work or re-decoration does it need, proximity to whatever school, is it on a bus route, can you walk to the corner shop... etc. There are a lot of variables, all of which will vary massively over very short distances in any given town, any of which might be showstoppers for you. Rightmove etc are doing what they can to aggregate everything, using house price as the crudest possible proxy measure, but I doubt there's any source that covers it all at a useful level of detail. You're going to be correlating rightmove and google streetview and national rail enquiries and ofsted and your own prejudices and... everything else.

When we did the equivalent move, we put the first stake in the ground by picking a town. Some of our reasoning for that choice was a bit delusional in retrospect, but it was still good to narrow the search area right down to something that was manageable over a solid couple of weekends of on-the-ground house-hunting. Otherwise you've got way too many possibilities, any of which could be made to work if you really wanted it, and you'll drive yourself mad trying to find the needle in such a big haystack.

So I'd say - pick a town that you like the sound of, go there and walk up & down the high street, go to the parks & shops & pubs, see exactly where the station is in relation to the streets that have houses in your price range. Do the people there look like you in 5-10 years time? If you just can't picture it - you're probably in the wrong town, pick another. Repeat until you find it.

Good luck. :)
posted by rd45 at 8:39 AM on June 26, 2017 [6 favorites]

Easiest mainline station for Canary Wharf will be London Bridge...

Or Stratford - which again points towards Essex.

Unfortunately the requirement not to be east of London, and the requirement to be commutable to Canary Wharf in the time frame, don't mesh together. The cost requirement points quite clearly to either Essex or Kent.
posted by plep at 2:39 AM on June 27, 2017

Response by poster: Thanks for all the great comments so far.

In turns of the viability of commuting in the constraints provided, I'm not too disheartened as both Commutefrom and Mapumental indicate you can get out as far as Tonbridge, Sevenoaks, Horley, Guildford, Woking, Egham, Beaconsfield, Chorley Wood, Luton, Stevenage and Chelmsford (more north-east than east) within an hour from Canary Wharf. There are plenty of places in-between those.

Whilst you can get out of London from London Bridge, Waterloo is only 10 minutes from Canary Wharf. So between the two stations, you can get quite far out of London on a fast train in 40-45 minutes.

(whether you want to live in one of those places is another matter...)
posted by mr_silver at 3:44 AM on June 27, 2017

Have a look at the Cross Rail route.

This is an infographic that shows you the length of the commute between stops and Canary Wharf.
posted by Dwardles at 7:25 AM on June 27, 2017 [1 favorite]

as far as Tonbridge, Sevenoaks, Horley, Guildford, Woking, Egham, Beaconsfield, Chorley Wood, Luton, Stevenage and Chelmsford

All of those towns certainly house many commuters, but you should be realistic about door-to-door travel times. You have to get to the station, wait for your train, wait again to change (maybe more than once), and then get from the platform at Canary Wharf to your desk. It all adds time. Plus, in any given week of full-time commuting, my experience is that one journey on average is badly delayed (like by half an hour or more). More changes => more chances for disruption.

If you can work from home one or two days a week, or do compressed hours in four days, or flex your hours so you're not travelling at the busiest times, you get a better experience. But that's a bit out of scope of the question.
posted by rd45 at 10:24 AM on June 27, 2017 [1 favorite]

Obviously I have to recommend Essex. The Central Line runs out to Epping, giving an easy commute to Canary Wharf via Stratford, on either the Jubilee Line or the DLR (which is much more pleasant). Plus there's Epping Forest on your doorstep and the M25 ten minutes' drive away for easy access to, well, everywhere outside London.

From 2020 Crossrail will arrive, running from Shenfield in the east, again with connections to Canary Wharf.

I have friends at work living south of the river whose trains take them into Waterloo or London Bridge - in theory a quick change to the Jubilee Line, but in reality an absolutely nightmare journey, both morning and evening. Avoid at all costs.
posted by essexjan at 11:06 AM on June 27, 2017 [2 favorites]

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