London is a magnet for talented young graduates from across the country starting out in their careers, and despite high property prices and expensive rentals, resourceful twentysomethings are still managing to put down roots in the capital.
© Ben Pipe
Not only is London the UK's key employment hub, its share of graduate jobs is rising, especially in the financial services sector, marketing and advertising, according to Graduate Market Trends, which tracks recruitment.
Two thirds of graduates employed as financial analysts start their careers in London. For identical twins Alexandra and Sophie Pollitt, 23, the first priority after landing jobs was to get on the property ladder. But where could they afford?
The sisters, from Manchester, had been saving since they were 16, working part-time as waitresses in the hospitality suites at Manchester United's Old Trafford stadium.
"We looked at Stratford but it was too expensive," says Alex, who is on the Barclays graduate HR programme at Canary Wharf. Sophie is employed by KPMG in Fleet Street. "We wanted to buy as soon as possible because we feared we would keep dipping into our savings and have nothing to show for it."
So they pooled resources to buy a new two-bedroom apartment in up-and-coming Canning Town, getting an 85 per cent mortgage and borrowing the three per cent stamp duty from their parents.
"We accept that things will be tight for a while but renting would probably cost us £20,000 a year, which is on a par with our mortgage repayments, bills and service charges. We see this as an investment in an area on the up. If one of us moves out, we would have a spare room to rent out, which would help keep things manageable."
Canning Town, previously a rough working-class district where house-builders feared to tread, is worth watching because it is sandwiched between Stratford's Olympic Park and Canary Wharf.
Developers had been put off by rundown council estates and the raw location alongside busy dual carriageways and the Blackwall Tunnel approach road. But co-ordinated regeneration is making a difference. Newham council's masterplan for the area involves £3.7 billion of investment.
Redevelopment of Rathbone Market, one of the East End's oldest, is the area's biggest project. Phase one is called Vermilion — 271 homes, most in a 21-storey tower inspired by the name. It is a genuinely "green" building, too, with a "living" wall that encourages natural ecology. Residents have exclusive use of 30 on-site private allotments. Prices start at £245,000 and rise to £695,000 for a three-bedroom duplex penthouse.
"It's one of the fastest-selling developments in London," says Tom Hawkins of Hamptons International. We're selling mainly to first-time buyers who have spotted the value for money for such a close-in location." For details, call 020 7758 8481.
Other well-connected East End areas are emerging from the shadows. Vivo is part of a "new" neighbourhood at Stepney Green, where a council estate has been bulldozed to make way for 462 private and rented homes.
Stepney had been under a veil, but buyers are waking up to its location: close to two Tube stations and between the City and Canary Wharf.
Thoughtful new architecture is enhancing an inner-city district. This part of London drips with history, while upgraded Regent's Canal and Mile End Park are well-used amenity spaces.
Vivo is a group of apartment blocks set around landscaped courtyards and sits on the edge of Stepney Green conservation area, an unexpected pocket boasting a terrace of splendid Queen Anne and Georgian houses.
Developers First Base and East Thames Group are sponsoring the East London Design Collection to support the area's young designers, who have helped to create the Fifties-style show flat. Individual pieces are available to buy and there is also a chance to win a designer piece by visiting vivolondon.com.
Prices at Vivo start at £240,000 for a one-bedroom apartment. Call Savills on 020 3069 2073. Shared-ownership options are available, with two-bedroom apartments starting at £72,000 for a 25 per cent share.