The acceptable daily commute has always been 60 to 90 minutes. But what if you have to make that trek into town only twice a week? It means you can live further from your work and get more house for your money.
Since lockdown hit in March, rail usage has slumped to just 23 per cent of pre-virus levels and two out of three office workers are still based at home.
All this means some people — especially those combining working some days from home and some in the office — no longer need to live a short distance from work.
The pretty market town of Pateley Bridge (pictured) in the Yorkshire Dales
So, welcome to the ‘stretched commute’ involving travel of perhaps 90 or 120 minutes each way, for two days a week.
Miles Shipside, of Rightmove, says: ‘We’re seeing a growing trend of people looking to move into smaller towns, with homeowners in built-up areas searching for places with more outside space. Proximity to a train station doesn’t seem to be as important as it once was.’
What are the options for the new, stretched commute?
Coast to the capital
Daily commutes until now meant living in the likes of St Albans or Beckenham Junction (30 minutes to St Pancras and Victoria respectively, and with average house prices of £554,000 and £540,000).
But if you travelled only twice a week into the capital, why not try the beautiful cathedral city of Chichester, where the average price is just £439,200 and it’s 95 minutes on the train to Victoria?
Or increasingly fashionable Hastings, also on the Sussex coast, where a 100 -minute commute each way means you could buy a typical home at £275,000.
Away from the coast, there’s even more choice and not just in the Home Counties. ‘Our Salisbury team saw viewings by Londoners double from an average 14 per cent at the beginning of the year to 27 per cent in July’, says Andrew Perratt, of Savills estate agency.
Best for Brum
The search for a short commute to Britain’s second city before the pandemic meant living in Wolverhampton, Cannock, Stoke-on-Trent or Telford.
That’s now changed. Birmingham’s already good value at £204,500 for the average home, according to Zoopla, but if you travel for an hour, there’s a much wider choice.
Warwick and Cheltenham come in at a pricier £300,000 to £375,000 on average, but offer more salubrious locations; while villages on train lines less than 90 minutes from Brum include Hatton, close to the Grand Union Canal.
The classic ‘golden triangle’ for commuters to the northern powerhouse of Leeds used to mean living in York or Harrogate. But train connections are so good that living further afield is possible.
Leeds station is England’s busiest after terminals in London and Birmingham New Street, so those willing to travel more than an hour each way a few times a week have a bewildering choice.
Newcastle, Hull, Derby, Nottingham and Liverpool are all ‘stretched’ commutable, with average house prices below Leeds’s £217,500.
Or take advantage of the north of England’s beautiful coast by moving to Scarborough, where the average house price is less than £183,000 and the fastest rail journey time is below 80 minutes.
Inland, there’s the pretty market town of Pateley Bridge in the Yorkshire Dales, which is under two hours by train, although with steeper house prices at an average of £317,000.
Shipshape in Bristol
Those working every day in the city live in it, too (homes average at £330,000), or in more expensive Bath (£440,000). For twice-weekly commuters, though, there’s a clutch of beautiful locations within a one-hour drive.
Try Clevedon in the Somerset Hills, backdrop to ITV’s Jane Austen drama Sanditon. It’s an elegant seaside town with average house prices of £335,000.
Brian Bishop, of agent Jackson-Stops, says: ‘Taunton also provides a great spot for families wanting to be part of this trend; it benefits from beautiful countryside and proximity to sought-after schools.’ The typical home costs £277,000 in the town