Real estate, alternative real assets and other diversions

The Resurgence of Commuter Towns

The Analyst

The number of people leaving the capital hit a 10-year high in 2017, with 292,000 people deciding that they had enough of the Big Smoke. With much talk of London affordability and sizing-up opportunities in the suburbs, are we seeing a resurgence of commuter towns?  We use the REalyse platform to take a closer look. 

Read Time: 5 minutes

When you hear the words ‘commuter town’, images of areas not too far from London will likely pop into your head. While there are commuter towns close to big cities across the whole of the UK, it’s the spiralling house pricesin the capital that have made the need for commuter towns near London so popular.

Over the last 10 years, people have been flocking in their droves from the capital and laying down roots in more affordable towns, creatingsome attractive opportunitiesfor property investors and developers alike. Lower living costs look appealing for those residing in London, where the average house price is just shy of half a million pounds. 

But is it merely a case of lower house prices, or are there other factors at play for the resurgence of commuter towns?

Commuter Towns: A History

A commuter town is defined as ‘a populated area with residents who normally work elsewhere, but in which they live, eat and sleep’, according to the folks at Wikipedia. And it’s a fair assessment, too – commuter towns usually serve a primary purpose that is transport related. So proximity to the big cities is key. 

Many of these commuter hubs were developed as part of the New Towns Movement. Though they came into play shortly after the Second World War, the reasons weren’t specifically because of house prices back then. London suffered heavily from bomb attacks during the war, and many homes were destroyed as a result. 

The destruction left people in the capital with nowhere to live. Consequently, towns such as Stevenage, in Hertfordshire, and Crawley, in West Sussex, are the direct result of the New Towns Movement. Today, the core use of these towns is for people who work in London, but who can’t afford the premium that comes with living in the capital. 

Leaving London

The amount of people leaving London and moving to a commuter town is growing. Over the last decade, 550,000 more Brits left London than moved to it. In 2017, the number of people leaving the capital hit a  10-year high, with 292,000 peopledeciding that they had enough of the Big Smoke.  

Millennials make up a large proportion of people leaving London. The age range consists of people in their 20s and 30s, with the Office of National Statistics (ONS) reporting that 26% and 23% of people from these age groups left London in 2015. 

The last few years have not been any different, with London losing around 30,000 people aged between 25 and 34 in 2016 and 2017. Those aged between 20 and 35 are more likely to be first-time buyers who look to commuter towns for more affordable deals. 

Where Is Everybody? 

All those people leaving the capital need to go somewhere. While not everyone leaving London goes to a commuter town, a significant proportion of them do. A quick Google search for ‘best commuter towns’currently brings up 4.3 million results, which indicates the high popularity of the topic.

There are many factors at play for why people choose specific commuter towns, but the main two are commute times and property prices. Cheshunt, in the county of Hertfordshire, is currently rated as the best commuter town to London, according to Totally Money.  

Looking at the Cheshunt postcode on REalyse’s heatmaps, the rumours are true: the average age in the commuter town is 38, suggesting that the exodus of younger people from London to is indeed occurring, with millenials looking to find their feet on the property ladder further afield. With only a 30 minute train journey to London Liverpool Street, Cheshunt looks like a viable alternative. But is there more to it than that?

Using the REalyse database to look at Cheshunt (EN8) as an alternative to a more central residential area of London such as, say, Hampstead (NW3), it is easy to see the reasons for these commuter towns becoming that much more enticing for Generation Rent in particular.  Let’s start by comparing the median prices paid in the two postcodes:






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About Simon Banks

Simon Banks

Simon has been writing words professionally for six years, with a focus on the UK property market. Other scribblings include the finance, marketing, sports and artificial intelligence sectors. He is also a lover of food, but would rather eat than write about culinary delights.

Articles by Simon Banks

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