The only way is Essex:east Londoners still flock to Basildon, Colchester and Brentwood for good schools, better value homes and fast commutes

Essex has long been the county of choice for City workers with growing families. Here's where they're moving to now for house price growth, schools and space.

Click to follow

The capital continues its love affair with Essex — for years the county of choice for City workers seeking a move from east London to a larger family home with countryside on the doorstep. But which towns are the hot favourites? Here’s our lowdown.


Fantastic transport links to the Square Mile and Canary Wharf put Basildon — birthplace of Russell Brand and a favourite location for Towie stars on a big night out — at the top of a league table of destinations favoured by commuters moving from east London.

A third of the homes sold here in the last year went to former east Londoners, who paid an average £349,000, Hamptons International research shows. Prices in the area have risen six per cent in a year and an impressive 45 per cent since 2007.

Outperforming it may be, but a move to this modern town involves compromises. The ugly, worn-out Sixties centre suffers from its proximity to Intu Lakeside shopping centre, and not much property is older than Joey Essex, so if you want to leave London for a quaint old cottage, Basildon won’t be for you. If, however, you want a large, detached executive home in a private road, you are in luck.

Basildon: the town enjoys great commuter links to the City and Canary Wharf (Alamy Stock Photo)

On the plus side, the commuter links are excellent. Trains to Fenchurch Street take from 37 minutes and an annual season ticket costs £3,948. Basildon also has a mix of high-quality schools. Great Berry Primary Academy, in Langdon Hills, gets an “outstanding” Ofsted report, and the majority of local schools are considered at least “good” by the education watchdog.

Obvious areas to start house hunting include Kingswood, near the station, where a three-bedroom terrace house would be about £270,000. A posher option is Langdon Hills, leafy and quiet, and with rather grand contemporary houses. Expect to pay about £650,000 for a substantial family house.


About a quarter of Brentwood’s buyers are from the capital, drawn in part by the town’s proximity to the M25 and the new Shenfield Crossrail station.

However, Brentwood, with an average house price of £554,735, is one of the most expensive locations included in today’s research, though its prices have flatlined in the last year.


Closer to the Essex coast, about one in four Rochford buyers hails from east London. With average house prices of £373,500, there has been a 10 per cent rise over the same period — the strongest annual price growth in the survey.


This is one of the cheapest options, with average house prices of £293,000, up a hefty 14 per cent year on year.

£400,000: a three-bedroom luxury duplex at The Mill Apartments, East St, Colchester 

Colchester’s market has been bolstered by its thriving buy-to-let scene. Despite tax changes and higher stamp duty, investors are still keen to buy near the University of Essex campus or around Colchester North station.

For owner-occupiers, west Colchester is the smartest location, including suburbs such as West Bergholt with its village feel and proximity to the town centre and station. A four-bedroom detached house here would cost about £430,000, while a three-bedroom semi would be £300,000 to £350,000.

Colchester has good schools and a good commute. Hamilton Primary is particularly sought after, as are Colchester County High and Colchester Royal Grammar School. Commuters can be at Liverpool Street in 54 minutes, with an annual season ticket priced from £6,016.

Most people know Colchester for its Army barracks, but its reputation as a slightly rough squaddie town is gradually dissipating. It has a new arts centre designed by Rafael Viñoly, a couple of cinemas, the beautiful Stour Valley is near and the coast is only 12 miles away.

The town centre has too many chain stores to be interesting, but Kris Dixon, sales manager at Leaders estate agents, says it’s “bright and vibrant”, adding: “There are lots of restaurants in the town centre, and nightclubs, and good country pubs in the villages around.”


The alpha choice on the Essex coast, about one in eight Southend buyers moves from London. The average house price is just under £362,000, up 11 per cent year on year.

£600,000: a very attractive four-bedroom, three-bathroom, fully renovated Victorian house with a garden and balcony, in Cambridge Road, Southend-on-Sea

With a 40-minute commute to Fenchurch Street and an annual season ticket at £4,736, this old-fashioned seaside town is coming into its own. Its airport is handy for European weekend breaks, the two high schools have “outstanding” Ofsted ratings, and there are plans to revamp the dowdy seafront.

The most upscale part is Thorpe Bay, where a post-war family semi would cost about £500,000. A sea view, wherever you are in Southend, will come at a premium, with large modern houses costing £2.5 million-plus.

The town centre conservation area has pretty Victorian terraces for £650,000 to £700,000. But a couple of miles out you can find similar homes in Leigh-on-Sea for about £350,000. Leigh also has more of a London vibe, with gastropubs, independent cafés, boutiques and vintage shops.

Follow us on Twitter @HomesProperty, Facebook and Instagram