Comment: Get set for a commuter belt property buzz as offices reopen

Station Road, Harpenden. Picture: Krishan Bhungar.

Harpenden doesn't offer the affordability some Londoners are looking for, however. - Credit: Archant

Remember those early lockdown days when the sun was shining, almost everything was shut and a home office and a patch of private lawn somewhere rural seemed like the ultimate idyll? 

Well, it's expected that people will be going off that idea now a return to the office is becoming more of a reality. 

Indeed, those of us already resident in and around St Albans and Harpenden may prefer to stay put, as new stats suggest the commuter belt will once more be where it's at. 

According to research from estate agent, Benham and Reeves, 65 per cent of workers are returning to the office this month - and outer London areas offer up the best balance of commuting time and property affordability. 

Apart from, in the case of St Albans and Harpenden, only one of the above is true. Benham and Reeves found that the average cost of a home within a 20 to 29 minute commute of London currently sits at £596,270. A bargain by Harpenden standards, and pretty pricey compared to the affordable likes of Peterborough and Purfleet (where the average house costs around £230k). 

Indeed, the London average currently stands at £500,310, making a move out to our part of Herts a little unwise for capital dwellers seeking to save cash. 

The affordability sweet spot is, not surprisingly, a little further out. Around a 40-minute commute, in fact. Yes, the likes of Wellingborough and Northampton offer the best balance for Londoners seeking somewhere a little leafier to call home. 

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However, all of our properties are hot according to director of Benham and Reeves, Marc von Grundherr, who describes the London commuter belt as "one of the hottest pockets of the UK property market". 

He added: "While the notion of a move to the sticks to work remotely during the pandemic has been a lovely one, we’re now starting to see momentum build across London and the surrounding areas. After a prolonged period of working from home, many are realising it's not all it's cracked up to be and are now returning to the workplace, albeit at a reduced level.

"In this respect, the commuter belt should become even more desirable as it provides the ideal mix of affordability, more property for your money, more open and green spaces but with the convenience of a quick commute when it is required.”

That 'a' word again. You'd be mad to describe St Albans or Harpenden as affordable, but if London-based estate agents want to rave about commuter-land’s general  greatness, then I'm happy to for us to share the buzz.