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Berkshire’s new look: the royal commute

By Sophia Wood-Burgess

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The Elizabeth line has finally fully opened, and all that fresh country air in Berkshire electric with excitement. What’s the big deal? You can now travel from your picturesque home in the market town of Maidenhead all the way to the bustling business centre in Bond Street without looking up from your morning paper. In one stroke, it’s turned Berkshire into a commuter’s dream.

At the height of Covid, the story of the London housing market was that people were leaving. All of a sudden, the little apartments people had compromised on so they could live the London lifestyle weren’t enough. People had a new need for garden space, space to work from home, less money per square foot so they could spread their budgets around the home instead of around the city. So, Londoners headed for pastures new.

Then, everything opened back up and many were called right back to London. Migration into the city became exponential. However, people also had gotten a taste for the idyllic countryside life, contributing to a dramatic rise in pieds-a-terre for those who’ve moved out of the city and increasing popularity in commuter towns at the edges of zone 6 and beyond. Buyers and renters set their sights on Berkshire, and landlords and vendors in the area who’d been waiting a long time for the Elizabeth line began calling in about property valuations.

The long-awaited right time

Historically, London has always grown this way – slowly spreading outward through advances in public transportation. Many areas of Greater London can trace their popularity back to train stations. Lewisham was just a small village until the 19th century railway production boom (Borough of Lewisham). Willesden was predominantly rural until Willesden Junction Station, and then the Metropolitan line at Willesden Green, caused a massive population influx to the area (British History online).

Berkshire sceneryIt was through lucky timing that first the pandemic trend for moving out of London put a spotlight on the benefits of living in Berkshire, then an increase in flexible working brought more commuters to the area and finally the unveiling of the Elizabeth line made the commuter lifestyle possible. Matthew Kirkpatrick, Director of Sales and Lettings for Foxtons Virtual Office, said, “buyers I meet that are moving out of Central London to Berkshire don’t mind the longer commute because they’re now in the office only two or three days a week as opposed to 5 days pre-pandemic.”

“It’s the hot topic with almost every single person we meet,” Matt said, and “[new transport links] come with the opportunity to buy in beautiful sought-after areas like Windsor, Bray, Marlow, Ascot, Cookham, Datchet, Stoke Pogues and Henley. Here, you have nice high streets with local independent shops and amazing restaurants and bars. There’s a lot of Michelin stars in the area.”

Photograph: River Thames by Timo Newton-Syms | CC BY-SA | Flickr

About the area

Berkshire streetsBerkshire is full of beautiful market towns surrounded in truly spectacular riverfronts and green spaces. It’s home to outstanding golf courses with the Old Course at Sunningdale voted in the Top 10 in the UK. Ascot’s racetrack plays host to Royal Ascot, a globally revered event. Reading has built its popularity through the summer music festival, and Eton College is one of the most prestigious public schools in the world.

People come to the area for the big attractions; Windsor Castle – of course, LEGOLAND and Thorpe Park. They stay for the cosy pubs, the long ambling walks past a wealth of wildlife, exceptional schools, and the laid-back lifestyles in darling villages like Twyford and Bray, now with easy access to London proper. “One of my clients in Cookham lives in a lovely home, and he’ll treat himself to a drive to Knightsbridge for lunch. It’s about a 40-minute journey when not in rush hour. But you get those sorts of stories here. You’ve got the advantages of London, but without the tiny garden with neighbours overlooking, without the hustle and bustle of the morning tube. It’s just a different lifestyle.”

Family at parkThe big demographic for a Berkshire move? Matthew has seen more and more young families, “On a personal level…London can be quite expensive for a young family, so if you try and upsize, if you’ve got a couple of children, you don’t get much extra space. That used to mean moving to an area outside of London that is really second best, nowhere near the quality of the London lifestyle. Now with areas like this opening up, you budget goes much further, square-foot-wise. You get the size you’ll need for a growing family but in a place you’re actually keen to live in. We see this story all the time. They say ‘we used to live in Islington,’ or ‘We used to live in St. John’s Wort, but we wanted the garden space, the extra bedroom.’”

The key to your Berkshire property goals: Foxtons proprietary tech enables our offices all across London to work together, linking customers in over 50 offices with opportunities to move and explore like never before. Our buyers, sellers, landlords and tenants aren’t restricted to the local office.

  • We’re well equipped to facilitate this move from London to Berkshire – as we frequently do for buyers and renters from Camden, Islington, Chelsea, Ealing, Richmond and beyond.
  • If you have property to sell or let in Berkshire, it may have increased in value with the arrival of the Elizabeth line, so be sure to book in a free valuation with one of our local experts.

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