Chiswick and Acton in west London are neighbours of the "chalk and cheese" variety. The former is a gentrified inner suburb with tree-lined avenues and a riverside mall, or promenade; the other is a sprawling urban mishmash, carved up by train tracks and busy roads into small, badly-linked chunks that undermine any sense of a cohesive community.
Beggars can't be choosers, which is why Acton is packed with young renters and buyers, while Chiswick attracts well-heeled families in search of good schools and safe streets.
Yet Chiswick is not totally out of bounds for first-time buyers, while parts of Acton are getting a regeneration boost with new apartment schemes bordering parks and conservation areas, making it a more compelling place for those who want to put down roots.
Picking the best pockets
An Acton pocket getting a makeover is the Poets' Corner neighbourhood, full of neat terraces that are popular with BBC workers. W3 is the postcode and West 3 is the name of a new apartment complex, a redevelopment of a former Ministry of Pensions building on Bromyard Avenue. A short hop from Shepherd's Bush, an assortment of new homes (including live-work units) and landscaped courtyards have been built behind the original Twenties façade. Lifestyle extras include a 24-hour concierge and car club. Prices from £230,000. Call Berkeley Homes on 020 8811 2336.
The Park House is going up on the corner of Horn Lane and Rosemont Road. Apartments in five-storey blocks have balconies overlooking a park and are handy for the central Acton action. Prices start at £250,000. Call Barratt on 020 8326 7171.
Coming soon is a high street development called Centro (one- and two-bedroom apartments). Call Crest Nicholson on 0870 755 1647.
Turnham Green is sandwiched between Acton and Chiswick. Here a derelict industrial site - where parts for Spitfire planes were manufactured - has been transformed into Factory Quarter - 400 homes plus offices and shops.
Loft-style apartments with high ceilings and big windows are available to buy outright, on a shared-ownership basis or through a "discount rent" scheme. Two-bedroom apartments cost from £349,950. Rents are from £710 per month. Call Genesis housing association on 0800 954 2364.
Chiswick High Road, which runs from Hammersmith to Kew Bridge, is a rare example of a major thoroughfare that successfully mixes chain stores, independent boutiques, bookshops, bars and brasseries to create a genuine urban village ambience. The western end of this highway, closer to Heathrow, used to be the business end, but apartment schemes are sprouting up on former office sites.
A smart-looking apartment block at 520 Chiswick High Road has been received well locally, with a handful of units snapped up on the launch day last month. Two-bedroom flats have floor-to-ceiling glazing, open-plan kitchens and come with a good-size terrace or balcony.
The rear of the building overlooks Gunnersbury nature reserve and a glittering new low-rise business estate (an old bus depot) designed by Richard Rogers. Prices from £485,000. Call Chesterton Humberts on 020 7288 0330.
Also on the High Road, a handsome Victorian Dutch-style corner building is set to become two town houses and seven apartments, designed by architect Conran & Partners. Prices from £550,000. Call Q Developments on 020 7223 1200.
Brentford begins where Chiswick ends but remains a residential backwater despite piecemeal regeneration during the last decade. With Thames and canal frontage plus fast road links to Heathrow and beyond, it has the potential to be a much more sought-after address than it is now.
Great West Quarter, a 13-acre precinct being built around the former Art Deco headquarters of airline BOAC, is helping to give the area a fresh identity. Barratt is building a series of new-build blocks overlooking a central piazza where there will be shops, bars, cafés, an art gallery, GP surgery and crèche. There are also plans for a 25-storey "Skylon" tower incorporating a hotel on the lower floors and flats above. Beneath the development is a giant underground parking area with space for more than 1,000 cars.
First-time buyers can take advantage of an incentive scheme called Head Start, which provides a 15 per cent interest-free loan over 10 years.
A local bus route (235) will terminate at the development and there will be a taxi rank for licensed black cabs. Hounslow council is promoting the idea of a weekly farmers' market and occasional antique fairs at the development. Prices start at £235,000. Call 020 8326 7277.