‘Outer prime’ is a relatively modern trend whereby city dwellers choose to live in the more affordable property areas just outside prime areas that are becoming increasingly expensive. According to The Commuter Guide, Savills coined another term, ‘prime regional’; a trend which sees city folk opting to live in the countryside, either to enjoy a better quality of life or lower costs of living.
Graham Norwood cites research by NFU Mutual Insurance, which reveals that 70 per cent of today’s rural residents still work in major cities. The trend has pushed up house prices in these towns, creating what is referred to as ‘wealth corridor’s along certain commuter lines. Oxford, with its impeccable schools, foreign students and excellent road and rail links, has an average house price that is still way out of reach for most people. Average home prices are in the region of £340,700, but in North Oxford, Summertown and areas along the River Thames, average house prices are double that, with some areas averaging upwards of £1 million.
Other areas that have popped up on urbanites’ radars as top places to live include Beaconsfield in Buckinghamshire, Sevenoaks in Kent, Alresford in Hampshire, Newbury in Berkshire, Saffron Walden in Essex and St Albans in Hertfordshire. House prices in these areas are also rising, so while city-dwellers may intend to take advantage of more affordable housing opportunities, the trend is having the opposite effect and property prices are growing along with mushrooming populations.
Latest trends show that smaller towns surrounding cities (for example, Banbury which is just 20 minutes by train from Oxford and 55 minutes to London), are becoming increasingly popular as preferred destinations for rural living because average house prices are still well below the £300 000 level. The stunning scenery that is also almost guaranteed (Banbury is on the edge of the Cotswolds), is also a major draw card for people wanting the best of both urban and rural living.
According to recent research by Knight Frank, the downside to this rural/urban honeymoon is the cost of commuting, which can put a bit of a dent in your pocket. For example, if you have moved to Henley where the average monthly mortgage repayment is around £1,017.14 and the monthly cost of the commute to London is £344 a month, the average total cost of living is £1,361.14, which is not too cheap. Some places, like Cobham in Surrey’s Golden Triangle, where the average property price is £619,325, or Guildford with an average property price of £379,159, have shorter journey times into London but the cost of the commute is higher than from other towns. For example, in Cobham the monthly cost of commute plus mortgage will set you back in the region of £2,232.80 and in Guildford it’s roughly £1,543.45.
Weigh pros and cons carefully
So, there are definite financial benefits of moving to the countryside to escape city life’s high cost of living, especially in smaller towns which lie on the periphery of bigger towns where you will get more bang for your property buck. But, your commuting costs will increase dramatically.
Many people will decide that a bigger cost to their commute budget is well worth the change of pace and lifestyle inherent in country living. Their opinions are back by evidence, which suggests that men and women in rural areas live longer than men and women in urban environments, and that less affluent people fared better in the countryside than in the cities. Experts put the benefits of rural living down to being closer to nature and a greener, healthier lifestyle.
Now you have even more compelling reasons to get in touch with an estate agent, put your city home on the market and head off to the countryside.