Chris Rogerson hasn’t lived in the Canterbury district since he left after finishing school and going to university in London in the 90s.
But after more than two decades living around south London, he has and his family are seriously considering moving back to Kent.
And they only have eyes on one place: Herne Bay.
“For what we can sell our house in Catford, we could get a substantially larger property with its own parking and a decent sized garden for the kids,” Chris said.
The 42-year-old’s sister bought a house in neighbouring Whitstable in the mid-90s before the town experienced its extraordinary property boom.
It was driven, in most part, by families relocating from the capital: the phenomenon of the so-called “down from Londons” (DFLs).
But those with smaller budgets looking for that ideal spot on the north Kent coast are recognising that it is “the Bay” that could well be the place for them.
Chris said: “Larger properties aside, the town offers a decent seafront, access to good local schools, especially in Canterbury, and is still close enough to London for us. My wife and I can work a lot more flexibly these days, which means more working at home and fewer trips to the office.”
According to estate agent Savills, Herne Bay is the number one in the top 20 good value destinations anywhere in the country for relocating Londoners. It offers an 80-minute commute to the capital and average secondhand house prices of £265,000 with an average detached house coming in at £330,000.
More than 60% of commuters from the Bay head to London to work – and this has not without its consequences.
Property prices in the town have risen by 43% in the last five years, says Savills.
The Herne Bay based David Clarke Estate Agents says that half its clients are families leaving London and people looking for a place to retire.
Buyers can pick up a four-bedroom Victorian semi-detached property for £350,000, or a bow-fronted Regency home on the seafront with four or five bedrooms for between £500,000 and £600,000.
While the town centre may still be unappealing to Londoners’ tastes, Canterbury City Council has embarked on an ambitious £1.1 million rejuvenation programme for an area by the seafront.
What’s more, where in the past the London lifestyle writers have focused their energies on Whitstable – or even kitsch Margate further down the coast – they’re now talking up the Bay.
The Guardian put it in its top 10 UK seaside towns alongside the likes of Falmouth in Cornwall and Ventnor on Isle of Wight. Author Kathryn Ferry said: “I fell in love with beach huts at Herne Bay. Watching their pointed shadows march along the shingle back in 1998 inspired me to pursue a career as a seaside historian.
“Though Herne Bay has long played second fiddle to neighbouring Whitstable, on a recent visit I see it has undergone some impressive improvements.”
Meanwhile, the Metro told readers that no visit to Canterbury was complete without time spent on the seafront at Herne Bay.
With all this chatter, people like Chris Rogerson are realising that if they are thinking of moving to Herne Bay they should do it soon.
Chris said: “I know prices are going up and we’ll still be in a good position to buy. I don’t think what anyone says about it is important, I think what is important is what we as family need and what we can get with our money.”
And that is almost certainly what everyone looking to move to Herne Bay is thinking…