While living in the capital's main business districts is likely to be beyond the pockets of most first-time buyers, conveniently located cheaper homes on the fringes of the West End, the City and Canary Wharf are available to buy and rent.
Start your search in travel Zone 2, just beyond the congestion charge boundary, where it is still possible to find good value pockets of the inner city, some very much on the up. Areas falling into this catchment include Whitechapel, Shadwell, Euston, Kilburn, Finsbury Park, Dalston, Deptford, Bethnal Green, Bow, Bermondsey, Rotherhithe, Walworth, New Cross and Stockwell.
Most people are happy to walk to work if it takes no more than 30 minutes — quicker if jogging or on a Boris bike. You can get fit and save on commuting costs at the same time.
Several new schemes in the fashionable Islington heartland have been unveiled. Corsica Street runs off busy Highbury Corner and has suffered because of close proximity to railway tracks. But the street is getting a facelift and people are waking up to the fact that it is moments from charming Highbury Fields and Upper Street's boutiques and pavement cafés.
Origin housing association is selling 21 shared-ownership flats, priced from £83,750 for a 25 per cent share (full price £335,000). Total monthly costs — mortgage, rent and service charge — are from £1,193. A show home opened this week. Call 0800 068 8990.
Archway Heights, also by Origin, is an aluminium-clad mixed-tenure tower between Holloway and Highgate Village.
Currently available are two-bedroom flats for rent (typically 20 per cent below market value). Couples and families have priority. Rents cost from £1,008 per calendar month.
Islington council itself has launched a shared-ownership initiative, selling refurbished vacant council homes, mainly studios and one-bedroom flats, to singles earning at least £24,000 a year, and using the proceeds to build bigger homes for families to rent. Call 020 7527 7705 or visit homeowner email@example.com
Parts of Battersea remain good value, including streets near desirable waterfront developments. Regeneration is changing the patch around Gwynne Road, which is close to the river (and also to a train line) and butts up against council estates. Redevelopment of a former local authority block by Linden Homes proved popular with private buyers and now shared-ownership flats are on offer at the same scheme through Thames Valley Housing.
Prices start at £105,000 for a 35 per cent share (full price £300,000). Call 0844 470 4642 or email firstname.lastname@example.org In general, east London and south of the river are less expensive than north and west London. Finsbury Park is one of the cheaper, well-connected north London locations.
Its refurbished Victorian park is bigger than St James's Park and Green Park combined. Most flats are conversions in period properties but new-build apartments are sprouting up for singles and couples who want to live in a place where they can feel the beat of the city.
Finsbury Park Place is an eco-friendly scheme, one of the greenest in London, of 42 apartments on Queen's Drive, which runs into the 115-acre park. "In terms of price, quality and location it doesn't get much better value than this," says Tracey Maile, of developer Lovell. Prices from £263,000. Call 020 8800 8143.
Woodberry Park, overlooking 50 acres of open water, is a redevelopment of a former council estate (one of the UK's largest) that will eventually have 4,600 new homes — a mix of open-market and affordable properties.
Berkeley Homes is building the first phase of 298 private apartments in a new 27-storey tower providing views of Canary Wharf and the City. Prices from £240,000. Call 020 8985 9918.
Shared-ownership homes are available through Genesis housing association. Prices from £57,500 for a 25 per cent share (full price £230,000). Call 0845 600 4663.
STAY AHEAD OF THE GAME
Buying into an up-and-coming area before it really takes off is one of the best ways for first-timers to make headway in the property market. Dalston, in Hackney borough, continues to get better. The new East London line station has created a town centre hub, while long-standing attractions such as Ridley Road street market are becoming distinctly trendy.
Jessie Dix, 27, works for an education charity based at London Bridge. She had been renting in Camden for three years but was keen to get on the property ladder so searched in travel Zone 2 for homes in her price range.
"Dalston has been a revelation. I love the area and it's easy for me to travel to different schools around London."
She was able to muster a deposit and get a mortgage to buy a £300,000 onebedroom flat at a development called Queensbridge Quarter. "My monthly mortgage repayment is 35 per cent less than the rent I was paying," she says.
A new phase of homes has been released by developer United House. Prices from £250,000. Call Fyfe McDade on 020 7613 4044.