ONE in 500 Londoners currently walks to work, and those who have witnessed the capital’s rush-hour crush, when mild-mannered professionals turn into a baying rabble, stamping over the elderly, the sick or the pregnant – anyone who gets in between them and a seat – will understand the appeal of this arrangement.
The journey to work has become so loathsome that buying agents and estate agents are noticing that more and more of their capital-based clients taking drastic action: moving house to be closer to work and avoid long Tube or train journeys.
“We are seeing an increase in buyers wanting to live close to their place of work, either because they are fed up with commuting on public transport or because their busy lifestyles mean they want to save time by exercising on the way to the office,” says Jo Eccles, director at buying agency Sourcing Property, who herself lives in central London and travels to the office on foot.
In Eccles’ experience, the maximum walking time her clients will consider is 40 minutes – popular areas within walking distance of the City are Islington, Borough or Shad Thames; Pimlico is desirable among her clients who work in Mayfair or Piccadilly.
“Properties closer to central London are obviously more expensive than those on the outskirts, but a lot of people will weigh up the cost versus quality of life – who wants to start the day battling it out on the Tube?” she says. “Some prefer to spend their limited spare time enjoying London rather than using the often unpredictable public transport.”
While it is true that buying in a central location is likely to cost you more money, there are savings that can offset the increased mortgage. Taxi fares will be reduced – you can stagger home from nights out instead – you don’t have to pay for Tube travel, and as you’ll be getting plenty of open air exercise, you may as well ditch the gym membership while you’re at it. It quickly adds up: assuming you forego paying the £99.10 cost for a Zone 1 and 2 monthly Oyster card, and cancel your £70-a-month gym membership, it works out as a saving of £169.10 a month that can be put towards your rent or mortgage repayments.
INCREASE IN APPETITE
John Kennedy, of the Canary Wharf office of Knight Frank, has also seen an increase in appetite among his clients for a more peaceful start to the day. “On average, among my clients, a 15-minute walk is about the cut-off point. It gives you a bit of extra time in bed, and when you’ve finished after a long hard day at work, it means you can get home quickly.”
He points out that, when carried out on foot, the journey to and from work can be stress-busting, so you’re ready to unwind the moment you get home. Among his buyers, homes around Westferry Road or close to the Canary Wharf Estate are the places to be. They command a 15 to 20 per cent premium, compared with equivalent properties in the Isle of Dogs. From here, most homeowners can stroll to their office in a super-speedy five to 10 minutes. In central Canary Wharf, prices start at £315,000 for a decent one-bed and from £475,000 for a two-bed.
Further north in Islington, many are often surprised to find out how close they are to the City – head to Angel, Islington’s hub, on a Monday morning and you’ll see a stream of suited people making the 15-minute walk down City Road to Moorgate. Oxford Circus is also not far: four stops on the efficient Victoria line from Highbury & Islington station and you’re there. Islington is also cheaper than many traditional walk-to-work central locations: decent one-bed flats start at £350,000, and two-beds at £500,000 – so not dissimilar prices to Canary Wharf – but in this location you also get beautiful Georgian architecture, family housing and good schools.
“People often have this perception that Islington is in the middle of nowhere, but actually we are more central than practically any residential area in London,” says Paul Williams, director of the Islington branch of Savills. “It is a major reason why people move here. I think people in north London know about Islington, but not everyone realises how close it is to everything. The morning walk to work is a good opportunity to get some exercise and a far healthier start to the day than cramming yourself in a Tube.”
BEZIER, OLD STREET
Right by Old Street roundabout, this pair of 12 and fourteen-story towers give you fantastic views of the City, plus the bars and restaurants of Hoxton are on your doorstep, too. Prices start from £325,000 for the studio suites. For sales information contact Knight Frank on 0207 490 1603 or at www.knightfrank.com
COMMERCIAL STREET DUPLEX
A two-bedroom duplex on the fifth and sixth floor of a serviced building with roof-terrace and 24-hour concierge, this is the ideal walk-to-work apartment for City workers. Add in the bars and restaurants of Shoreditch on the doorstep, and it looks even better. It’s on the market for £1.325m. Contact Foxtons Shoreditch, tel: 020 7033 1414