London’s impressive willingness to reinvent itself and redraw the urban map is continually creating new property hotspots and, despite predictions from the doomsayers of a gloomy year ahead, people are doing what they always do in a crisis - getting on with their lives.
- © Rebecca Reid
- © Rebecca Reid
If you are in work and in London, property will always be the place to put your money. The capital is a collection of micro markets and buyers can choose from a huge variety of areas and neighbourhoods according to their needs.
But with a tough financial year ahead, property buyers should take advantage of London's ability to create new communities rapidly. Within five years an area can go from being a new kid on the block to a desirable location, worthy of placing your faith in its potential to return a good profit.
Look for the clues
The key to moving to the right new area is research. Very few people do their homework. There are obvious signs of new growth in an area - a smart row of shops, an active retail scene, a popular bistro.
Look for unusual area clues, too. For example, it is interesting to see where the Top 10 restaurants opened last year are, as recommended by Evening Standard food critic Fay Maschler. Two of those restaurants are in Bethnal Green, one in Bermondsey, another in Stockwell, and two in Clerkenwell - European capital of the advertising industry and creative businesses.
Who would have thought that of Clerkenwell a decade ago? Once you have a feel for an area, start to delve deeper. Visit the local council and discover what is planned - new transport links are important and so are regeneration projects.
Attend a planning meeting, talk to everyone: estate agents, shopkeepers, local business people. Stalk the streets to look at house prices, compare them from street to street.
Study the architecture of property to discover what has potential for improvement and what has been done up already. Look at the rear of properties to find new side-return extensions and garden rooms.
Value for money is every homebuyers' goal and estate agents are reporting that buyers of every type (be they singles, families or childless couples) are no longer just making a purchase to be near their friends or live in an impressive place. Buyers are ruthlessly examining the fundamental merits of an area for its potential and their own personal needs: a good state school, a walk to work, open spaces.
Discover the edge
Redchurch Street in east London should be studied by all potential property pioneers. A jumble of renovated old warehouses, lock-ups and new builds, it is full of hipsters, with a mix of independent boutiques and destination venues, including Terence Conran's Boundary restaurant and Shoreditch House private members club. The creep of gentrification is now spreading to nearby Dalston and London Fields.
Nine Elms in Battersea, billed as central London's last significant regeneration area, will be a slow burner but with such prestige developments planned, and the arrival of the US Embassy, the signs are there for a glamorous future (don't follow developers slavishly - as markers of a promising future they are very good at talking up the image of an area beyond its traditional appeal and commanding steep prices based on the promise of better things to come).
Keep an eye on: Bermondsey Street, tucked behind London Bridge station, where the awesome Shard skyscraper is scheduled for completion next year.
Bloomsbury, traditional and central, is staging a comeback among those who crave convenience and handsome, historic architecture.
Covent Garden/Aldwych, where a spate of new development activity will bring a much-needed injection of new homes to this lively heart-of-London location.
North Kensington: fun and genuinely metropolitan, the area's downbeat council estates and scruffy streets are getting a facelift as part of a council-backed 20-year regeneration plan.
Westminster/Victoria/Pimlico: this slice of the prestige SW1 postcode is remarkably overlooked by many buyers, meaning prices are significantly lower than Belgravia, a salubrious near neighbour. Watch out for office-to-residential conversions in the Parliamentary quarter.
St John's Wood: like Hampstead it has a following of its own. Of all London's villages, it is perhaps the nearest thing in the capital to suburban bliss, with Regent's Park a giant garden on the doorstep.
SOUTH OF THE RIVER
London Bridge/Borough/Butler's Wharf: all set to benefit from the awesome Shard skyscraper, due for completion next year.
Clapham Old Town: between the common and the High Street, this busy little patch is losing its gritty urban edge and acquiring a villagey character, with gastropubs and boutiques. Swish new schemes such as Wingate Square are sprouting alongside renovated Georgian and Victorian properties. Coming soon is Clapham One - more than 150 flats, a new library, workshops and leisure centre. Call Cathedral Group on 020 7939 0800.
EAST AND NORTH LONDON
Dalston and London Fields: where the East London line extension is causing property ripples, and gentrification is spreading from trendy Shoreditch.
Victoria Park: on the edge of the Olympic zone, this is an established neighbourhood in its own right, with a villagey feel, good primary schools and some of the finest houses in Hackney, priced from about £500,000.
Wapping: left behind in recent years by the rise of Limehouse and Canary Wharf, this charming cobbled neighbourhood of handsome warehouses is looking good value and has a swish new development coming soon at Wapping Lane.
Finsbury Park: just north of Islington's grand terraces, this unpolished urban district is now getting noticed. With a varied stock of period houses and the bonus of Travel Zone 2 Tube and rail stations, the area is crying out for young families to colonise it.