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London Investment Guide

London Guide

Welcome to the London Commuter Belt

For a long time, the Central London market dominated the UK property investment scene. However, in recent years the prime capital markets have been in decline and other areas of the UK have become more popular. One of the biggest beneficiaries of this has been the London Commuter Belt.

The Commuter Belt is defined as the area around London metropolitan area from which is practical to commute into the city centre for work. The Belt has been one of the hottest UK property markets for years, but certain new factors are increasing its appeal to property investors even further.

Transport links into the capital are improving hugely, and that is making it more feasible to live away from the city centre while maintaining the work and lifestyle perks that come with the London life. The rise of hybrid working is also making it a more attractive option to work for a company based in the capital but live outside it. Likewise, the lower entry prices to be found in the Commuter Belt are another draw.

By providing the ideal mix of affordability, lifestyle improvements and proximity to London, the Commuter Belt is becoming more popular than ever – and investors are taking note. The last year has seen more people leave London for new pastures than ever before, and this is the perfect time to make the most of this exodus by investing in high quality homes to meet the need for Commuter Belt housing.

  • 7.2% – Average Commuter Belt rent grew 7.2% in the year to July 2021 (Savills)
  • 5.5% – Predicted house price growth in the Commuter Belt in 2021 (Savills)
london bridge aerial view

Economy and areas of interest

Economic Overview

The London Commuter Belt economy is tied directly to the capital city for obvious reasons – and on that front, investors can be extremely positive. The latest forecast from the Greater London Assembly shows that we can expect the capital’s economy to grow by 5.4% this year, and 6.9% in 2022. Furthermore, the number of jobs available in the London workforce is set to increase by 2.9% in 2022 and 4.2% in 2023.

This is extremely good news following the worst of the Coronavirus pandemic, and it contributes to an overall positive picture for investors. The London 2030 report from Oxford Economics confirms this sunny outlook, noting that London’s economic growth is easily outpacing both the rest of the UK and its closest European rivals, Paris and Frankfurt.

Large-scale investments in public infrastructure, office space, retail space and other developments all point to this state of affairs continuing for the long-term. In other words, the reasons that millions of people are drawn to the London area are here to stay.

Significant investments in public infrastructure, office buildings, retailing, and homes all point to widespread optimism that the pace of growth will continue, not just for the next year or two but for many years to come. This is good news for the Commuter Belt, as London’s £487bn economy naturally benefits its surrounding areas as well, as the wealth generated in the capital continues to push house prices and rents upwards due to the lack of supply, and people look for more affordable alternatives outside the city.

  • £487bn – The size of London’s economy (Eurostat)
  • 6.9% – Projected economic growth in London in 2023 (Greater London Assembly)

Commuter Belt Area Highlights

The London Commuter Belt is a big place, and it would be easy to get lost when looking for its best investment hotspots. We have identified three areas which offer high returns with the prospect of strong future growth.

Chatham, Kent

Chatham is a waterside location which can be found a 45-minute train journey from London. It is one of the Medway Towns and is built on a history of shipbuilding and other maritime industries. Today, it has a population of almost 300,000, operates a university district home to 12,000 students, and is busily reinventing itself for the 21st century.

More than £1bn of public and private investment has poured into Chatham in recent years thanks to its prime location close to the sea and London. This gives it advantages which are the best of both worlds, and makes it extremely attractive to commuters who want to live in a peaceful, seaside location but keep all the benefits of the London life.

The extensive Medway 2035 plan will only make Chatham an even more impressive investment prospect going forward. It is focussed on six areas and promises to transform the Medway waterfront:

  • Destination and placemaking
  • Inward investment, expanding employment
  • Innovation
  • Business accommodation and digital connectivity
  • Sector growth
  • Improving employability

This is a part of the Commuter Belt that thinks like a city of its own – investments include an £86m further education campus, £37m of railway improvements, 7 miles of waterfront renewal and much more. It is estimated that the Medway 2035 plan will end up adding £1bn to the economy of the local area and creating 17,000 jobs.

Chatham itself is at the heart of this plan and enjoys economic growth 3% higher than the national average, as well as being within minutes of more than 14,000 businesses. It is also home to Chatham Maritime – the UK’s first and only strategically planned island community which is built around a regenerated marina, a designated Creative Hub and the Universities at Medway campus.

“Chatham Maritime is a real beacon of regeneration success. The mixed-use development – featuring hugely popular homes, leisure, retail and entertainment venues, and the outstanding Universities at Medway complex – is an excellent case study of how to create sustainable, vibrant communities. Chatham Maritime both respects the past and embraces the future.”

Matthew Norwell, Chief Executive, Thames Gateway Kent Partnership

This is the ideal time to invest in Chatham and be a part of its incredible regeneration story. Its central place in the London Commuter Belt and the work being undertaken as part of the Medway 2035 plan ensure that Chatham is only going to become more popular with the thousands of people choosing to leave the centre of London each year.

Uxbridge

Uxbridge is one of the most popular property investment hotspots in the London Commuter Belt and it is easy to see why – its location makes is absolutely perfect for commuters and businesses who wish to have direct access to London.

The area includes Heathrow Airport, the UK’s largest and one of the busiest in the world. The Airport sees more than 80 million passengers a year and, put simply, it is one of the UK’s most significant economic powerhouses. Every year Heathrow contributes £188bn to the UK’s economy according to the Centre for Economics and Business Research, and that figure is going to grow to £204bn by 2025.

The proposed expansion of Heathrow Airport will provide even more benefits, including:

  • An additional £61bn over 60 years
  • 77,000 additional jobs by 2030
  • 5,000 new apprenticeships by 2030

The Airport directly supports hundreds of thousands of jobs and makes Uxbridge a unique and unmissable prospect for property investors. There can simply never be enough homes in Uxbridge for all the people that need them, and that steady supply of tenants means that you are always going to be looking at strong returns. This is particularly the case if you invest in an Uxbridge property with the intention of pursuing short-term lets aimed at businesspeople who are more willing to pay higher rates.

As well as Heathrow Airport, Uxbridge has direct access into Central London via the London Underground’s Metropolitan and Piccadilly Lines. With the Airport on one side and Central London on the other, this is the ideal of a commuter town, and is arguably the very heart of the London Commuter Belt.

  • 38 minutes – London via train
  • Under 2 hours – Paris via Eurostar

Ashford, Kent

Ashford also enjoys proximity to London’s two major airports. By car, Gatwick is an hour away with Heathrow only a further 30 minutes around the M25. Closer still is London Ashford Airport at Lydd, which is due to undergo a multi-million-pound redevelopment.

This connectivity makes Ashford a prime location for businesses. The latest figures show that office rates in Ashford are 73% lower than in London, and employee costs are 28% lower. Add to that the fact that entry prices for property in Ashford are 39% lower than in the capital and it is clear to see why so many investors and homeowners are seeing Ashton as a viable alternative to London.

Consequently, the property market in Ashford is booming, and this is the perfect time to invest in Kent’s number one investment property market.

Ashford is one of the most compelling investment locations in the UK and a leading Commuter Belt destination. It boasts future-proofed infrastructure, a growing population and a proactive council which enables the area to reach its full potential.

With direct rail links to London and Paris, Ashford occupies an outstanding location for business, while still being able to provide a more tranquil atmosphere than a city centre could. This is a powerful combination which is leading to both economic and population growth – 22.5% in the last 15 years.

london modern property

The so-called “London exodus” has been underway for several years now, although the Coronavirus pandemic appears to have accelerated the trend, to the point where a report from PricewaterhouseCoopers has predicted that London’s population could decrease by as much as 300,000 in the coming years.

Reports from Hampton’s International show that almost 50,000 people left London in the first half of 2021, looking for more affordable homes elsewhere. The vast majority of these people (92%) did not go far, ending up in London Commuter Belt towns. None of these places are of a comparable size to London and they do not have the housing stock to deal with this sudden influx of new homebuyers and renters.

As mentioned previously in this guide, a major driver of people leaving the capital is the rise of hybrid working. As that intensifies, we expect to see this trend continue, and the population of Commuter Belt towns increase concurrently – offering even more potential for those who invest in London Commuter Belt property to make even more significant returns in the future.

  • 1st – London’s population is expected to decline in 2021 for the first time this century (PwC)
  • 92% – The vast majority leaving London end up in the Commuter Belt (Hampton’s International)

Connectivity

The London Commuter Belt is attached to the capital city and benefits from all its major transport infrastructure. London itself gets the lion’s share of the UK’s transport infrastructure budget, and every pound spent improving access to the capital makes Commuter Belt towns more attractive – and therefore a better investment.

Here are some of the major connectivity highlights that make the Commuter Belt a more enticing place to live:

Crossrail

Crossrail is one of the biggest infrastructure projects in Europe and one of the most valuable investments in UK history. It is delivering better access from East to West across London, opening up the capital, serving 41 different stations and provide major business and economic benefits:

  • An estimated 200 million passengers will use the Elizabeth line annually
  • Construction of the new railway will support regeneration across the capital and add an estimated £42bn to the economy of the UK
  • Central London rail capacity will be increased by 10%
  • 1.5m people will be brought within a 45-minute journey of London’s major economic centres including Canary Wharf

Over the course of the project, it is expected that at least 75,000 opportunities for businesses have been created, generating enough work to support the equivalent of 55,000 full time jobs through the supply chain. Many of those jobs will be based in the London Commuter Belt.

High Speed Rail

Areas of the London Commuter Belt such as Chatham benefit from High Speed 1 – the UK’s original high speed railway line which connects London St. Pancras to the continent, and joins the Chatham Mainline along the way.

As well as providing direct access to Paris, not to mention London in approximately 40 minutes, High Speed 1 brings a myriad of economic benefits to the Commuter Belt. It accounts for £427m of economic benefits to the UK each year, with potential for another £100m if capacity is increased.

On top of this, it makes towns such as Chatham feasible and exciting places to live for so many people who might otherwise have remained in London. As discussed earlier, this is an especially important benefit to Commuter Belt Towns on the HS1 route given that so many people are leaving London for pastures new.

Why invest in the London Commuter Belt?

As more and more people leave London, rents in the Commuter Belt have hit their highest levels of annual growth since 2007, according to the latest quarterly residential analysis from Savills. Q2 2021 saw rental growth of 2.5% in the Commuter Belt, which resulted in huge annual rental growth of 7.2% in the year up to July 2021 – a figure which is unmatched elsewhere in the country.

This rental growth likely has two main causes. The first is the rise of hybrid working during the Coronavirus pandemic which forced many companies to rethink their working practices and allow more home working. This has lessened the demand for Central London property as commuters are no longer so strained and many more are beginning to see living outside the capital as a viable option.

The second factor is the growing group described as “accidental renters”. This term refers to people who are looking to buy but have not been able to for a variety of reasons, mainly the overall lack of stock in the most desirable areas. These people have instead entered the rental market, and many of them have landed in the Commuter Belt. Until stock levels increase, we can expect to see these “accidental renters” become more permanent figures on the rental landscape – a fact which will continue to push up rents in the London Commuter Belt.

“Buyer commitment to moving remains strong and longer-term adaptations to home working will benefit London’s wider commuter zone”

Frances Clacy, Associate Director at Savills

To illustrate the issue, 87% of Commuter Belt estate agents surveyed by Savills in July 2021 said that their level of stock had decreased in recent months. This is an unprecedented number, especially given that the market was already undersupplied. This lack of supply bodes well for property investors who can expect continued capital appreciation and rental growth in the future.

Jessica Tomlinson, Research Analyst at Savills, said: “Across the commuter belt, we’ve also begun to see a change in priorities with people seeking to be closer to transport links and lifestyle amenities in town and city centres, in contrast to the flight to country properties in village and rural locations seen throughout last year”

This lack of supply is also set to push house prices up in the London Commuter Belt. When Savills upgraded its residential forecasts earlier this year, it initially looked like very good news for the Prime London market which is now predicted to see house price growth of 14.6% over the next five years.

However, it is even better news for the Commuter Belt where the forecasts are predicting average growth of 21.6% over the same time period. It seems clear that it is not just high rental returns that investors can expect in the Commuter Belt – it is also strong capital appreciation.

Why invest with Opulent?

At Opulent, we manage your property investments and portfolios as if they were our own. This dedication and attention to detail guarantee a personal service with tailored investment advice built to your exacting requirements.

Our team of experienced property investment advisors work tirelessly to identify and present the very best investment opportunities to maximise the return on your investment. Whether it be identifying new property and off-plan developments for future resale or attractive rental properties with regular returns, we have complete confidence and proven expertise in delivering exceptional returns.

A superior investment proposition

There is no shortage of investment advisors in the UK but, sadly, not every one of these will place your needs above their own desire to turn a profit. This is the precise reason that we set up our business in 2014.

It is witnessing poorly researched property investments lacking a strategic framework and companies willing to recommend developers without thorough due diligence checks, that led us to the comprehensive property investment service we are so proud of today. We call it ‘the Opulent Way’.

Adding value, creating wealth

The ‘Opulent Way’ means adding tangible value based on a number of critical variables. It includes a research process second to none that allows us to make informed recommendations rooted in facts and figures and presented in a no-nonsense, easy-to-understand format.

It involves working with hand-selected, reputable developers with unblemished track records right from the very start. This ensures that property investment plans can be shaped to your needs and delivered with a confidence that we are prepared to stake our brand on.

Our primary goal is to create wealth and long-term financial security for you, and we are proud to do so transparently and ethically.

Total management

We set out to create turnkey opportunities that are fully managed and require minimal input. There’s no corner-cutting, but by acting decisively we can circumvent the most challenging part of the property investment process for you.

An aftersales team will guide you through your property investment purchases, absorbing most of the administrative burden. Forget time-consuming legal paperwork or preparing your property for rental. We’ll take care of it while you sit back and contemplate your next investment.

london investment opportunities

Available investment opportunities

DOLPHIN BRIDGE HOUSE

We are delighted to offer this exciting new development in a very desirable London location. Dolphin House is located in Uxbridge within the London Borough of Hillingdon and beautifully combines a West London location with countryside and rolling hills on your doorstep.

The development is situated on the banks of the Grand Union Canal and River Colne and offers a great deal of tranquillity within the boundaries of the UK’s capital city. This building has undergone an amazing transformation and is now a highly desirable residential development that is very attractive to renters and owner occupiers alike.

Uxbridge is a business node within the Greater London area, and its fantastic transport links give it an enviable position within London’s reach. The area is renowned for having a large number of offices within the town centre with companies like Coca Cola, Cadburys, Apple, Mitsubishi, Hertz, Hasbro, GSK, Xerox, Fujitsu, Cisco, PWC & IBM all having a significant office presence within Uxbridge.

When you also consider it is within a 10-minute drive of Heathrow, there are many reasons why businesses want to be located in Uxbridge and why demand for luxury rental property is very high here. Furthermore, there is high demand for serviced apartments and hotel accommodation in Uxbridge for this reason, meaning that this property offers you a rare level of flexibility in how you let it out.

In terms of positioning within Uxbridge itself, Dolphin Bridge House is located to capitalise on these business travellers. Located just a 10-minute walk from the town centre and the underground station, this is a hotspot for business stays within the area, making it an outstanding investment opportunity.

Key property information

  • Price – From £290,000
  • Developer – Titan Property
  • Management company – Opulent
  • Service charge – £3 p/sqft
  • Payment plan – 20% on exchange, balance on completion
  • Projected yield – 5% gross on headline price, 10% NET if managed as serviced apartment
  • Management fee – 8% + VAT
  • Ground rent – 0.1% of the property value
  • Parking – Allocated with each apartment
  • Completion date – Completed
  • Deposit interest – N/A
  • Tenure – 999 years leasehold

X1 CHATHAM WATERS

X1 Chatham Waters is an exciting new development commanding a beautiful waterfront setting in Medway, Kent a mere 36 minutes by train from London’s Kings Cross.

Set on a harbour, these exclusive 1-, 2- and 3-bedroom apartments boast private balconies with stunning views across the quayside, are extremely spacious, and have a contemporary feel throughout.

As far as London commuter-belt investment properties go, X1 Chatham Waters is unique. As a key part of a massive £650m regeneration project, this waterfront development will witness significant capital growth in the coming years which will appeal to buy-to-let investors and owner-occupiers alike. New retail, leisure and transport infrastructure is being built, and X1 Chatham Waters will be a major beneficiary.

Investors can enjoy a 2-year rental guarantee at 6% NET or alternatively opt for a 3 years 5% NET rental guarantee. The population of Kent is increasing, with a forecasted 22.9% growth in the population by 2031 meaning that luxury homes like X1 Chatham Waters will be in high demand. What’s more, transport links to the area couldn’t be better with a total journey time door to door from the project to London is just under an hour.

The developer has an exceptional track record with 27 completed developments, 9 projects currently under construction, 7 upcoming projects with over 7,500 units sold. As this project is complete, it represents very little risk when compared to other off-plan projects in London’s commuter belt.

This opportunity represents the perfect opportunity for investors wishing to capitalize on the expansion of the city of London. With property prices in Chatham nearly a third of those in Central London, Chatham and surrounding areas are destined to benefit from an influx of city workers arriving at its doorstep in search of more value for money.

Key property information

  • Price – From £220,000
  • Developer – X1 Developments
  • Management company – X1 Lettings
  • Service charge – £1.89 p/sqft
  • Payment plan – 10% on exchange, 90% on completion
  • Management fee – 7%
  • Ground rent – £375 per annum
  • Completion date – Complete
  • Deposit interest – N/A
  • Tenure – 250 years leasehold

Start your investment journey today

Property investment is an astute choice for many and includes retirement fund planning, nest eggs to finance university education and experienced property investors seeking portfolio contraction or expansion. Get in touch today to find out more about our latest investment opportunities in Manchester.

Click here to download our London Investment Guide in PDF format.

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