With its traditional seafront and easy proximity to London, Southend-on-Sea is an attractive proposition for those looking to settle in the South of England. It’s conveniently located for both country walks and commuting to the city, as well as being home to an international airport. Like every large town, Southend-on-Sea has both desirable and less desirable aspects; if you choose your neighbourhood carefully, however, it can be a great place to live.
Is Southend-on-Sea a good place to live? On whole, yes — especially if you’re in a good neighbourhood. Southend has some significant deprivation hot-spots which skew statistics on quality of life. If you’re in one of the better neighbourhoods, you will probably enjoy living there.
Whether you’re looking for a quiet retirement at a UK seaside resort or a base to commute from, you probably have numerous questions about Southend-on-Sea. Where are the best places to live? How much does it cost to buy a house there? What are the employment prospects like? How do the schools measure up? Keep reading to find out all of this and more.
Is Southend-on-Sea a good place to live?
Southend-on-Sea has a lot to recommend it. Most people are attracted by its coastal location — it’s a perfect example of a traditional British seaside resort. Besides this, though, Southend has plenty of other good qualities. The town is consistently rated as among the 10 best places to live in the UK, according to national newspaper services.
It’s certainly true that there are some very deprived areas in Southend. That said, there are also some highly desirable neighbourhoods that are very pleasant to live in. In between, there are neighbourhoods that offer safe, comfortable nooks and corners but also offer a lively edge. It all depends on what you’re looking for.
The more deprived areas include neighbourhoods in North Leigh (particularly Blenheim), the area around the high street in the town centre and a handful of other locations in outlying areas. West Leigh (including Marine Estate and the area around Highlands Boulevard) is more desirable. There are some higher-income areas to the south-west of Chalkwell Park. The majority of Thorpe Bay and Eastwood are also very desirable.
In general, most of Southend-on-Sea is fairly safe. There are crime hot-spots, mostly around the town centre and some of the more deprived neighbourhoods; on the whole, though, the town is not a dangerous place to live. The better-off areas see very little crime.
The majority of secondary schools are comprehensives and are mixed sex. There are four grammar schools, two for boys and two for girls. The principle institute for higher education in the area is the University of Essex, which has a campus in Southend. South Essex College offers further education and also provides a number of degree courses in conjunction with the University of Essex. There are a number of smaller and more specialised institutions as well.
The proximity of London Southend Airport means that road and rail connections are excellent. The airport itself lies about a 15-minute drive from the town and there are regular bus and rail services. Southend-on-Sea is served by various bus and rail routes, including express services. The local bus network is extensive, with several companies operating services to and from the town centre.
Social life in Southend tends to be more lively in the summer than the winter but there’s always something to enjoy. Traditional seaside entertainment in the form of concerts and comedy acts remain popular; there are also more cultural experiences to enjoy courtesy of the various theatres and cinemas in town. In general, most of the nightlife is focused on the town centre or on the seafront.
Is Southend-on-Sea a good place to work?
Many people use Southend as a home base from which to commute to larger cities, chiefly London. According to studies, around 20 per cent of the population of Southend now commutes out of the town for work. The main source of employment in the town is in the service industry. There are a few large companies based in Southend. These include the Hi-Tec Sports chain, Olympus Keymed, the Arriva bus company and MK Electric. Top employers in Southend-On-Sea are Superprof tutors, private healthcare provider Spire Healthcare and security contractor QinetiQ. These companies sometimes offer attractive opportunities for the right candidate
Unemployment levels are rather high, unfortunately. The departure of travel insurance firm InsureandGo, a major employer in the area, was just one blow to the city’s employment. Credit card payment processing was once a significant source of jobs but has now declined. Lower-skilled jobs are scarce and tend to be seasonal, potentially making it harder for the younger members of the family to find that first job once they leave education. Wages on the whole are fairly low and have declined in recent years.
In short, unless you currently have a job offer in Southend-on-Sea, you should plan on finding employment in London or elsewhere and commuting rather than seeking work in town.
Is Southend-on-Sea a good place to buy a house?
The property market in Southend-on-Sea is rather a complicated beast. On the whole, average prices are fairly high. There’s an elevated demand for properties, especially those suitable for the many retirees who make the town their home. There is also a fairly significant student population, also driving up prices.
The average price for a home in Southend is £356,000. There is considerable variation depending on the location. In lower-income areas, particularly those situated further from the city centre, prices are lower but the quality of the homes tends to be lower too. A one-bedroomed house costs around £235,000 on average, a three-bedroomed house roughly £355,000 and a five-bedroomed house £713,000.
The high pressure on house prices also drives up rents; the average price of a rental property is around £750, much higher than you might expect to see in a town of this size. £490 pcm is the average for a one-bedroomed house; £1,130 pcm for a three-bedroomed house; and £2,030 pcm for a five-bedroomed house.
Unlike many commuter towns, which offer cheap house prices but rather uninspiring surroundings, Southend-on-Sea’s main draw is its appealing surroundings and high quality of living. If you’re looking for budget accommodation, you may find it rather difficult to find anything in Southend. That said, if you’re prepared to lay out a bit more money, you can find some really charming properties here.
Is Southend-on-Sea a good place to retire?
Southend is an excellent place to retire. It’s hugely popular with retirees, with the fourth-largest population of over-65s in the UK. Many people choose to settle here once they’re free from the demands of the daily grind. It’s not hard to see why: for vibrant and active seniors there are some amazing walks to enjoy in and around Southend, with the town providing a convenient base to explore the whole of the Essex coast.
Popular neighbourhoods for retirees include Thorpe Bay, which is close to the seafront and very desirable. Town centre neighbourhoods tend to be less favourable but you can still find some really nice little retirement developments in central Southend. Outlying areas are often wonderful for retirees, offering pleasant semi-rural surroundings and charming properties.
Because Southend-on-Sea is so popular and the housing market in general is under quite a lot of pressure, prices tend to be higher than they might be elsewhere. That said, the properties are often really desirable.
Average prices start at around £100,000 for a one-bedroom flat. Most three-bedroom retirement properties are bungalows, with £350,000 a realistic average price. Larger retirement properties are unusual, at least in the sense of purpose-built dwellings. Many retirees choose to buy a multi-room house so they can let the additional rooms out and run the property as a guest house. A standard five-bedroomed house costs about £713,000.
You may have to look quite hard to find a retirement flat to rent. Rents start at over £1000 pcm for an average one-bedroomed flat. There are a few three-bedroomed retirement dwellings; they can cost around £2500 or £3000 pcm. A standard house in Southend with no specific modifications for seniors rents for less.
Is Southend-on-Sea a good place to visit?
Southend is a noted tourist destination, well-loved by locals from the area and visitors from London and beyond. As you’d expect from a popular tourist resort, there’s plenty of accommodation — from the nearby caravan parks to self-catering guest-houses, traditional bed-and-breakfasts or luxury seaview hotels.
The seafront itself is a major draw, offering all the usual fun of a traditional pier. There are rides and amusements galore. If you’re looking for something a little more cultural and stimulating, you might enjoy a trip to the Beechcroft Art Gallery or the Southend Forum. The Essex Book Festival is just one of the annual cultural events held here; it’s well worth checking the listings and planning your visit around those.
Most people choose to visit Southend during the summer months, when they can enjoy swimming in the ocean, basking on the sandy beaches or enjoying the many summertime activities. Even so, a visit during the off-season can also be very rewarding: you can enjoy a coastal walk during the day and take in a theatrical performance or comedy show in the evening. Southend has plenty of wonderful places to enjoy food or drink — you won’t be limited to typical seaside fare, with plenty of delicious world cuisine. Overall, Southend-on-Sea is a great place to visit both for a day trip, a quick weekend getaway or a summer holiday.
About the author: Marta Kovachek is the author of this article. She graduated from the University of Chicago with a master’s degree in Economics. Marta enjoys writing about the current economic situation and loves helping our readers to find their next "destination". From places to live to complex social and economic topics, we always enjoy Marta's work. Please contact us in case of any questions.