It’s only just over a year now until London and the South East get their new railway, Crossrail’s Elizabeth line. Stretching from Reading in the west to the far corners of Essex at Shenfield in the east, the ‘Lizzie line’ is set to slash commuting times into the city. Prices along the line have risen, causing many an estate agent’s heart to beat faster, however, with 12 months to go until part of the route opens, are there still pockets of affordability for first timers?
Head East: Forget Blingy Brentwood, try Romford
Essex may have soared in popularity among TOWIE viewers in search of some Brentwood bling, but, three stops closer into London – admittedly less glamorous – Romford is still affordable, according to estate agents Balgores. “We’ve seen a huge increase in first time buyers. Before the Stamp Duty changes affecting landlords, buy-to-let investors were snapping everything up, but that’s changed now and first time buyers are back, which is encouraging,” says Gavin Hocket. Well-priced homes are fuelling the interest, but many buyers are buying now with an eye on the transport improvements that Crossrail will bring, “This is still one of London’s most affordable boroughs, but we’re seeing people from all over London and they’re all interested in the rail improvements.”
Balgores has properties to suit all pockets. “There’s a lot of history round here and we have a great selection of period cottages and new developments,” adds Hocket, who notices much of the interest is centred around upmarket Gidea Park directly on the route. Balgores is selling new homes at New Enterprise House, within easy distance of Chadwell Heath and Romford’s mainline stations, which will both benefit from Crossrail next year. One beds start from £190,000, up to around £360,000 for larger units. A two bed flat can be bought for around £270,000 and a small house for £320,000. “People often start off in Romford, then head out to trendy Brentwood, it’s a natural progression,” says Hocket, who thinks that Romford itself has much to offer: “It’s a vibrant, lively town centre, with some good shopping facilities.”
Terry Holmes of Beresfords also finds that homes near the Crossrail route are proving popular with first time buyers. “Crossrail gives them excellent links to the capital and, thanks to a short commute, property owners in this area can enjoy all that London has to offer, plus relatively affordable house prices in comparison to central London.”
In London’s southeastern pocket, Woolwich is fast becoming a buzzy area for buyers seeking value, and new developments are springing up around the Crossrail hotspot. It’s currently only 18 minutes by train into Canary Wharf on the DLR, but, in 2018, there will be 12 services an hour, taking passengers from Woolwich into Canary Wharf in eight minutes, Liverpool Street in 14 minutes and Bond Street in just 22 minutes. Lovell Homes’ Jonathan Goring believes that interest and prices will soar. “It’s no wonder Woolwich is one to watch for aspiring homeowners. Woolwich’s brilliant travel links already provide an 18-minute journey and, when the new Crossrail station opens, travel times will get even shorter. Our latest development, Trinity Walk, will be a distinctive new neighbourhood for first time buyers and families in this current property hotspot.”
Berkeley Homes’ Lyndon Nunn, agrees that Crossrail is having a big effect, driving up prices along its route. “At Royal Arsenal Riverside, Crossrail has already generated significant price growth, despite the station not being open until 2018. With these much faster journey times into central London and to key centres of employment, Crossrail has opened up a wealth of opportunities for first time buyers to get on the property ladder, in places that are already thriving in their own right and are also now within easy reach of the capital.” Berkeley is offering Discount Market Sale homes at 20% below the open market value at Royal Arsenal Riverside.
Suburbs around the Crossrail stations are also benefitting from the proposed improvements explains Natalie Perry of Barratt Kent. “In Abbey Wood and surrounding areas like Belvedere – where our Tower Hill development is situated – the area was already ideal for families, with good parks, open spaces and schools, but the icing on the cake is the impressive transport connections that Crossrail will bring, making it a serious commuter zone.”
Head West: New hotspot West Drayton
Along Crossrail’s western route out to Reading, pockets of affordability are still available, although this stretch won’t benefit from the Lizzie line until 2019. Hotspot West Drayton already has excellent road, rail and air links, with fast rail connections to London’s city centre, Heathrow and good access to the M4 and M25. When Crossrail arrives in 2019, travelling times will be slashed even further, making the West End accessible in just 23 minutes and getting you into Canary Wharf in 37 minutes.
Director of Cameron Group, Nicholas Jordan, says that the property market here has been rising steadily over the last two years. “Prices may well continue to increase in value for the foreseeable future as the completion date for Crossrail gets closer.” Housebuilder Redrow is also building a new collection of homes here. Padcroft is opposite West Drayton train station on a prime canal-side location in the town centre, with many of the homes enjoying waterside views. Redrow’s Simon Halfhide says that the area’s investment, which includes hundreds of new homes, and new shops opening on the high street, is making West Drayton ‘one of the most desirable property hotspots within the London Borough of Hillingdon’. “With local agents expecting a continued increase in the capital value of properties sold off-plan, we believe that the high demand for newbuild property in the area will continue.”
Slough is one to watch
Three stops further west, Slough is also one to watch. Its train station already enjoys great transport links, Paddington can take as little as 17 minutes at peak times, but next year, Slough will also benefit from the arrival of Crossrail, which – as well as bringing 1.5 million more people within a 45-minute commute of London’s main business districts – will boost Slough’s rising status as one of London’s most popular commuter towns. Slough will eventually enjoy four Crossrail services an hour at peak times, so central spots such as Bond Street and Oxford Street will be just 32 minutes away, with direct services to the commercial hubs of Liverpool Street and Canary Wharf in 39 and 46 minutes respectively.
Developer Paradigm is building new development Lansdowne House just six minutes’ walk from the station, with studios and one and two bedroom apartments aimed at young professionals. Shanly Homes’ Nigel Sawers, says that Slough has always had potential, thanks to its transport links and location in the Thames Valley, but it’s been overlooked as ‘simply an industrial town’. “Investment in the town centre is helping to give Slough a new identity as a commercial hub, where people want to work, socialise and live.”