Kent’s market towns have good commuter links and schools that have been tempting London home buyers in large numbers. High demand is boosting house prices, but we’ve found two emerging property hotspots where prices are still cheaper…
Kent has a rich choice of market towns that no other home county can quite match. Excellent commuter services and first-class grammar schools have been tempting Londoners to move into the area in large numbers.
The county has seen house price growth of eight per cent in the past year, according to the Land Registry, while exclusive research from Knight Frank reveals how resilient the most affluent towns have been during and since the recession.
However, some less glamorous market towns in the county, where property is much cheaper, have also emerged as winners in the past 12 months.
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Wrotham, on the cusp of the North Downs, has seen the strongest recession rebound, with prices up 36 per cent since the dark days of 2008 to an average of £410,714.
Yet two other towns within 20 miles of Wrotham and which also fringe the Downs, have enjoyed a good recovery — West Malling, where the average house price has increased 25 per cent since 2008 to £324,986, and Lenham, which has seen a 24 per cent rise, to £278,167.
Wrotham — pronounced “rootam”— is the perfect example of what a market town should be. It has a lovely high street with a 13th-century church and a cluster of pubs. It is light on shops, although there is a post office and more choice in neighbouring Borough Green, which is walkable. Wrotham is also only five miles from the bright lights of Sevenoaks.
Trains from Borough Green & Wrotham station take from 43 minutes to Victoria, and an annual season ticket costs £3,796.
Educational opportunities are a key driver of Wrotham’s market. It has its own senior school, Wrotham School, which is rated “good” by Ofsted. The government schools inspector considers the town’s St George’s CofE primary school “outstanding”.
Jill Mitchenall, a director of estate agents Jackson-Stops & Staff, believes Wrotham is benefiting from “silly” prices in Sevenoaks. “People are moving just a little bit further out where they can get more for their money,” she says.
Perhaps the prettiest option is one of the 17th-century houses in the centre of town, and a three-bedroom terrace would cost about £450,000. A family house, detached and with four or five bedrooms, would cost between £900,000 and £1 million. If that sounds stiff, Mitchenall points out that a similar property in Sevenoaks would cost more like £1.4 million.
In Sandwich, one of the farthest-flung Kent market towns, property prices have surged by 17.9 per cent in a year, to an average of £241,899.
The attractive town centre is peppered with timber-framed medieval buildings and traditional pubs, while Sandwich is close to the coast, with Broadstairs beach less than 10 miles away.
The cricket club tends to hog the headlines, but Sandwich also has a good lawn tennis club, and golfers will love living close to the Royal St George’s and Prince’s championship courses. For a more relaxed day out there are several nature reserves at Sandwich Bay. Annual events include a folk and ale festival and an arts weekend, and there is a fine selection of pubs, restaurants and cafés.
Sandwich Infant and Junior Schools and Sandwich Technology School, for seniors, are all rated “good” by Ofsted. Sir Roger Manwood’s School, also for seniors, gets an “outstanding” report, as does Eastry CofE Primary School.
The bad news is that trains to St Pancras take about 90 minutes, and an annual season ticket costs £5,180. David Heard, sales director at Michael Cooper & Partners estate agents, says about one in four of his buyers is from London, and this year’s improvements to the High Speed 1 train link, with services now running hourly, are encouraging an increasing number of commuters.
“Nearby Deal is more vibrant in terms of its high street, but Sandwich is very peaceful, a place where you can retreat,” he adds.