High Speed property boost
The launch of high-speed domestic rail
services from Ashford to London St Pancras is drawing affluent city
workers to the Kent town in search of a better lifestyle.
Just weeks after Southeastern began operating
its preview service, which has slashed journey times to London by
more than half to 37 minutes, estate agents are already seeing
increasing interest from buyers who now view Ashford as an
attractive commuting option.
According to Alex Davies, director at
Ashford-based estate agents Hobbs Parker, buyers are prepared to
pay the price of a season ticket to swap city living for the
fresh air and countryside that
Kent has to offer.
“The interest in Ashford’s commutability is
occupying a lot of our time,” he says. “We’ve already arranged a
number of sales for people looking to exchange house prices in the
capital for greater value in the Ashford area. We’re definitely
noticing a surge in interest from buyers who now see the town as
“At the moment it’s predominantly buyers in
the upper price ranges, affluent professionals from the London
market who see no problem with spending £6,000 on an annual season
ticket to commute to work,” adds Mr Davies, who says that a better
choice of good schools and a slower pace of life are also likely to
drive interest in Ashford.
Housebuilder Hillreed Homes, which has seen a
steady rate of sales in Ashford despite the recession, says
Ashford’s good value property prices have long been attracting
buyers from South London and the developer expects interest to
increase as more people become aware of the town’s new fast rail
link to London.
“The arrival of HS1, coupled with ambitious
plans for the town’s development, will in the long term make it
more attractive than Ebbsfleet,” says the developer’s marketing and
corporate manager, Jo Richards.
Ashford’s fast commute to London also makes it
an attractive place to live when compared with towns in more
traditional commuter belt areas such as Hertfordshire,
Buckinghamshire and Surrey, where average property prices are still
20-34% higher* than in Kent.
That price difference is, however, likely to
shrink over the next few years, says Hobbs Parker’s Alex Davies:
“We predict that Ashford property prices will rise above normal
house price inflation, eventually narrowing the gap between the
prices evident in traditional commuter towns.”
Within Kent itself, Ashford continues to offer
some of the county’s most competitive property prices.
Says Jo Richards: “The average for a
three-bedroom semi in Ashford is around £174,950 for brand new and
£150,000 for second hand. In other parts of Kent, such as Kings
Hill, an average three-bedroom semi would be £270,000 new or
£250,000 second hand; while in Horsham, a typical commuter area,
you’d pay around £295,000 for a new three-bedroom semi and around
£275,000 for second hand.”
A recent report commissioned by London and
Continental Railways suggests that fast rail services into London
will stimulate demand for property in Ashford, pushing up house
prices by at least £12,800 and possibly much higher.
That prospect is already luring buyers looking
for a good investment, says Jo Richards: “We have seen an increase
in investors in Ashford and it’s for all the right reasons: low
property prices, Gateway to Europe, and now a train service that
makes London easily accessible. It’s all in place.”
Jo Richards also believes that high-speed rail
services are likely to encourage more businesses to locate to
Ashford. “It will then become a destination of choice,” she says.
“Maidstone, Canterbury and Tunbridge Wells all have different
benefits to offer but, in the long term, Ashford will have
Judith Armitt, managing director of Ashford’s
Future, adds: “The growing interest in Ashford property is further
evidence of how the new high-speed rail service is adding to its
attractiveness as one of the most accessible towns in the UK. HS1
is the most important economic boost to the South East this year
and the knock-on effects to local businesses and home owners will
Southeastern is due to launch its full
high-speed domestic service in December.
Media release 0248/09