London's house hunters zone in on the capital's future hotspots

When the going gets tough, London house hunters hell-bent on a bargain get going - south of the river, into regeneration zones, or nosing out future hotspots

Making your money go further is a mantra for London homebuyers, not just first-timers but second-steppers, family movers and downsizers too. Despite generally high property prices, ever-resourceful buyers manage to make progress up the ladder. Some lead frugal lives to save a big deposit, others are consummate compromisers who buy a wreck to renovate or take in a lodger to help pay the mortgage.

Determined bargain-hunters search out cheaper up-and-coming areas, while off-plan buyers take a punt on a home yet to be built, and low-budget shared-ownership buyers secure a foothold in the market.

Whereas in the past, Londoners have been reluctant to move out of their familiar territory, now they are much more likely to move to another borough for better value and more space. One striking trend is the increasing number of cross-river moves.

Smart movers: Forest Hill and Sydenham
One hot address is tree-lined Cator Road, Sydenham, in travel Zone 3, where large, double-fronted Victorian villas priced up to £1.5 million are attracting City workers, doctors and lawyers from other parts of London.

Ahead of the game were husband and wife architects Robert Barker and Jessica Lawrence (pictured above) who in 2010 sold their Islington flat to buy a backland site in Forest Hill to create a new mews of three houses. They will live in one of them, paid for by the sale of the other properties, which are due on the market next year. Call Baca Architects on 020 7397 5620.

“The mews is almost invisible from the street and the houses have vertical gardens and green roofs,” says Mr Barker. The energy-efficient design means the homes will be much cheaper to run than an older house, he adds.

From north to south
Estate agent Winkworth, which has more than 60 branches across the capital, says the main flows are from north of the river to south London, beyond the trendy riverside districts into areas where flats and family houses are significantly cheaper, and where the new Overground rail service is helping to revitalise the likes of fast-gentrifying Brockley, Forest Hill and Sydenham.

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  • Values in Sydenham

“Change is constant in London and always there are property-buying opportunities,” says Andrew Palmer, new homes director at property consultant DTZ. Even those with modest budgets can be winners, he adds, urging buyers to get to grips with big infrastructure projects, particularly transport upgrades, which over the decades have proved to be a major boost to property values. Crossrail and the Northern line extension to Battersea are the ones to watch for now.

Buyers determined to get the best property deal tend to do a lot of research themselves — they keep a close eye on specific streets and buildings, speak to estate agents, shopkeepers and local businesses, monitor corporate relocations and even attend council planning meetings to see what is in the development pipeline.


Some of the apartments at One Elephant are still available for less than £500,000. Call 020 3667 1522

Get in early: regeneration zones
Regeneration zones are worth looking at because prices tend to be lower during the early stages of construction. There is no shortage of areas to choose from — they include Stratford, King’s Cross, Elephant and Castle, Croydon, Deptford, Royal Docks and Wembley. 

Apartments at One the Elephant, a skyscraper now under construction, have edged up in price by 15-20 per cent since the launch a year ago, but some are still available for less than £500,000. Call Lend Lease on 020 3667 1522.

Some projects are more advanced than others, meaning the timescale of the “regeneration dividend” — a better neighbourhood to live in and higher resale prices — differs. The point about regeneration is that it can take a long time, perhaps five years and possibly 10 or more, for the true impact to be felt. So you have to be patient if you are to benefit from property price rises.


From £849,995: terrace houses at Langroyd Mews in Tooting

Search on the edge of the posh spots
Another tip is to look for places sandwiched between areas that are already sought after. Cheaper and less fashionable today, they could be trendier and more expensive tomorrow. Rotherhithe, between Shad Thames and Greenwich, is one example.  Tooting, bordering Clapham and Wandsworth, is another. Langroyd Mews is an Edwardian-style terrace of 13 bay-fronted houses with a garden plus parking in a gated courtyard, five minutes’ walk from Tooting Bec  station. Prices from £849,995 will perhaps appeal to those who have watched the purse strings to amass a decent deposit. Call Bellway on 0845 548 3059.

Value north of the river
Winkworth’s price data shows that Haringey, Hendon, Tottenham, Edgware and Wembley are among the cheapest places north of the river. In the east, Barking and Walthamstow, both Tube-connected, stand out as good value, as does Isle of Dogs beyond Canary Wharf business district. In west London, Acton and Ealing are worth checking out.

Bargains to be had if you head south
Prices in SE postcodes beyond the buzzing Southwark waterfront are rising faster than many other parts of London, yet they remain among the cheapest. This swathe stretches from Woolwich, via Catford, Crystal Palace, Dulwich and Herne Hill, to Camberwell and Kennington. Beyond the South Circular road are some leafy inner suburbs such as Streatham and Norwood where homes are also relatively cheap. Two-bedroom apartments priced from £399,995 are launching soon at The Old Dairy, Streatham. Call Bellway on 0845 548 3016.

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Land Registry figures show that the average property price for south  London boroughs is £343,878 — that’s £80,200 less than the average for north London boroughs. Research company Lonres, which collates data from estate agents, says square foot values in inner south London average £650, compared with £956 in north London and £1,075 in west London.

Kinleigh Folkard & Hayward, another London-wide estate agency chain, says the new Overground rail network has had “a huge impact on migratory  patterns”. Javaid Ahmed, manager of the Forest Hill branch, says: “About 25 per cent of buyers registered with us currently live in north London whereas two years ago you could count them on one hand.”

Other buyers are moving along the East London line from Dalston and Hackney to Nunhead and Peckham.


From £300,000: new apartments at Chester Balmore, Camden (020 3320 8220)

Make tracks to north London
Of the 275 Tube stations in London, only 30 are south of the river. Arguably, north London has more housing choice too, with trendy City-fringe districts, leafy Georgian squares, canalside lofts, smart Victorian terraces and commanding, high-ground suburbs such as Hampstead.

However, there are affordable homes for sale in the north. New apartments at a scheme called Chester Balmore in Camden’s delightful Dartmouth Park conservation area cost from £300,000. Call Savills on 020 3320 8220 for more information.

“Public transport is less extensive in south London and people working in the City and the West End want to live in more commuter-friendly north London,” says Iain Currie of estate agent Thomson Currie.

Others simply move further along the line to get better value for money. “What may look a longer way out on the map is merely 10 minutes’ more on the train,” says Alexander Jones, director at estate agent Stirling  Ackroyd. The Jubilee line is a case in point because it provides a quick train connection from north-west London to the Canary Wharf banking district. Property prices get steadily cheaper as the train heads north of St John’s Wood to Stanmore at the end of the line.

Cheapest spot in the royal borough: North Kensington
Improving North Kensington (postcode W10), the cheapest part of the royal borough, is only a 10-minute walk from Notting Hill Gate, and prices are more like those in Balham, points out estate agent Marsh and Parsons. Downbeat council estates and scruffy streets are getting a facelift as part of a council-backed 20-year regeneration plan.

Argyll Place is a rare new-build scheme of 20 modern-looking townhouses, each with a lower-ground floor that could be used as a self-contained studio, plus basement parking. This could be one for second steppers, with prices from £1.3 million. Call Strutt & Parker on 020 3667 5566.

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