New homes in Stratford: buy before the 2012 Olympics

Since London won the 2012 Olympics bid, Stratford has had its boom and bust. But now, at last, this is a good time to buy
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As far as the housing market was concerned, the run-up to the 2012 Olympics was always going to be a property marathon for Stratford. It faced a seven-year course of "mini-cycles" - both fat and lean periods - providing opportunities for both buying and selling.

Prices soared during the euphoric months after London won the Olympics bid. That gold-rush mentality triggered a buying frenzy between 2006 and early 2008.

In hindsight, this was unsustainable. Nobody predicted the credit crunch, which has dented regeneration ambitions and depressed property values.

But one thing is certain: the games will go ahead in a little over two years' time and the "legacy" benefits, though diluted, will make this part of east London a much better place to live and work.

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Olympic Village
Apartments at the Olympic village will be sold privately or let through housing associations after the games
All the key "structures" - the stadium, aquatic centre, velodrome and athletes' village - are highly visible at the 250-acre Olympic Park. About £9 billion is being spent on infrastructure and new facilities.

For those who want to be part of this future, and with the worst of the financial crisis over, now may prove the best time to buy before the games.

The main regeneration challenge facing the Olympic Delivery Authority and the London Development Agency is to ensure Stratford is not left post-games with a gleaming sports complex isolated amid a sea of deprivation. They want the Olympics bonanza to spread to surrounding communities in Bow, Hackney Wick and Canning Town.

The master plan

An "Olympic Arc" plan aims to create up to 12,000 new homes in these areas, as well as better public spaces, 30 new bridges across waterways and a two-mile Lea River Park to connect the Olympics site with the Thames.

Stratford itself is a mini-city in the making. Its transport links are excellent: two Tube lines, overland rail and the DLR plus Eurostar trains and City Airport nearby. However, cutbacks by private developers mean there are fewer than expected new homes completed at this stage in the cycle.

Former hospital in St Andrew's in Bow
From £203,000: former hospital St Andrew's in Bow. Call 020 7515 5788
The number of apartments in the Olympic village has been trimmed by a third to 2,700. These will be sold privately or rented through housing associations after the games and will take up to a year to come on to the market while they are converted.

Hundreds of homes are also in the pipeline at Stratford City, a mega mixed-use development on former railway land where Westfield's new retail complex, billed as "Europe's largest urban shopping centre", is on course for completion in March 2011.

Meanwhile, several niche private housing schemes are either under way, nearing completion or finished. Prices in the area start at about £185,000 for a new one-bedroom flat, down 20 per cent from the peak. Little on the market costs more than £750,000.

Investors bought heavily in Stratford during the boom years of 2006 and 2007. "Many believed there was money to be made before 2012 rather than after, when there could be an oversupply of new homes and the hype had evaporated," says one local estate agent. Some speculators flipped homes and made a profit but there is now little buy-to-let activity.

Caspian Wharf, Bow
From £169,950: Caspian Wharf in Bow. Call Berkeley Homes on 0844 800 1152
Big housing associations have stepped into the void and bought blocks for shared-ownership and low-rent housing. "For regeneration to work, there has to be a critical mass of owner-occupiers who want to live in an area," says Lucian Cook of Savills.

With increased affordability and physical improvements starting to take shape, the next tranche of homes in Stratford is likely to draw in more owner-occupiers. The town centre is getting a face-lift. Yet for many, Stratford is not yet an enticing enough neighbourhood to put down roots.

Post-industrial dereliction is slowly disappearing but the area has a hard urban face and lacks the metropolitan charm of certain districts on the fringe of the Olympic zone, such as leafy Victoria Park or glitzy Canary Wharf, the real economic engine of east London.

Arguably, values in these more established residential areas, well placed to enjoy the legacy benefits, will get a bigger boost in the long term. Timing is an issue because there will be a lot of housing coming on stream at roughly the same time, which could affect resale values. Some insiders are cautious about buying right in the middle of the Olympic zone, questioning whether the new facilities will be of use to the community or become white elephants.

Lett Road flats
From £185,000: some flats at Lett Road will overlook Olympic Park (020 7718 5220)
Anne Currell of estate agent Currell favours Victoria Park: "Victoria Park is a market in its own right. It has a villagey feel, one of the best primary schools in east London and some of the finest houses in Hackney. In other words, there is already a good environment for property and family living." Houses cost from about £400,000 and rise to more than £700,000.

Off the blocks

Lett Road (right), an eye-catching development of 64 apartments, is the only new scheme in Stratford that is entirely private (no social or affordable housing). Launching on 15 April, prices start at £185,000. Homes include duplex three-bedroom penthouses with views over the Olympic Park. There is also a communal roof terrace. Call 020 7718 5220.

Also launching in April is Athena, a 28-storey tower with 298 apartments on Stratford High Street. Prices for two-bedroom flats from £295,000. Call Knight Frank on 020 7718 5223.

OneStratford tower
From £200,000: OneStratford tower. Call 01992 809800
OneStratford (left) occupies a commanding position overlooking the Olympic Park. The centrepiece is a 22-storey tower. Residents have access to an around-the-clock concierge and car club.

One-bedroom flats currently for sale cost between £200,000 and £332,500. For more information, call Telford Homes on 01992 809800.

Fairfield Quarter, close to Bow Church, has shared-ownership flats for sale. Prices from £41,000 for a 25 per cent share (full price £164,000). Call Genesis on 0800 954 2356.

St Andrew's is a 964-home redevelopment of a former hospital in Bow, close to the Olympic zone but also Roman Road street market, the canal, Victoria Park and Canary Wharf. Prices start from £203,000. Call 020 7515 5788.

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