Despite spiralling prices many first-time buyers still dream of a Zone 2 address — for a quicker commute to work, a cheaper Uber ride home Friday night, and the indefinable cachet that still comes with living on the fringes of central London.
Here are some favourite hunting grounds...
Brockley: For families
The leafy Victorian charms of this south east London outpost have sent prices shooting up. It is particularly popular with Docklands workers, since it is only three stops from Canada Water and easy for Canary Wharf.
What this means is that a two bedroom flat in a period house will cost about £500,000, while a one bedroom property will cost £350,000, making it a relatively expensive first-time buyer choice.
Brockley is very much the territory of the young couple thinking about kids, or young families who already have one or two; they hang out at the excellent Brockley Market on Saturday mornings, shopping for craft beers and charcuterie, and spend sunny afternoons at Hilly Fields Park. For nights out there are plenty of restaurants and smart gastropubs like The Orchard or The Gantry.
Despite its changing demographics Brockley has a strong community spirit. Locals organise an annual music and arts festival, including family days and live music.
Local schools include Gordonbrock Primary School and St Mary’s Lewisham CofE Primary School, both rated “good” by Ofsted.
The only downsides are the slight aura of middle-class smugness creeping in the absence of a good high street. For shopping your closest options are Lewisham Shopping Centre (better than it sounds) or Canary Wharf.
Upper Holloway: Rising
Some estate agents like to call it “Crouch End fringes” while others style it “East Highgate”. Either way, the streets around Upper Holloway overground station offer north London villagedom at a relatively affordable price.
This being north London you don’t get a lot of property for half a million — one bedroom flats in Victorian buildings change hands for between £425,000 and £475,000. Faig Babayev, manager of Stelfort Estate agents, says buyers should budget about £750 to £800 a sq ft to live in Upper Holloway — around Islington’s Upper Street, a mile or so south, this rises to about £1,100 sq ft.
Homes to the west, close to Archway tube station and the Northern Line, are more expensive than those closer to Upper Holloway station, on the Gospel Oak to Barking line, from where you can be at King’s Cross in 24 minutes – the same journey on the tube takes around 15 minutes.
The area, says Babayev, is popular with singles and young couples, usually supported by the bank of Mum and Dad, and he has seen the area start to change over the last few years with improvements to the roads and the general quality of shops along the Holloway Road starting to improve. The coffee chains have been moving in; not necessarily a sign all buyers will be pleased by but certainly one that the area is on the up.
Once you explore beyond the main drag of the Holloway Road this is a surprisingly pretty area — Whittington and Waterlow parks are both favourites for north Londoners avoiding the crush on Hampstead Heath. The area has a cinema, and some great walking-distance pubs most notably the St John’s, with its dramatic, high ceilinged dining room behind the main bar. Café Del Parc, which serves tapas with a North African spin, is a bit of a hidden gem of N19.
Blackwall: Low profile
Best known for its tunnel and (to slightly older readers) as the location of the fictitious fire station in long-running ITV series London’s Burning, Blackwall has, at present, the lowest profile with the Isle of Dogs. However, as developers run out of space at Canary Wharf the first Blackwall skyscrapers are appearing, some with flats with seven-figure price tags.
On a more FTB-friendly level two -bedroom contemporary (but not brand new) apartments cost about £450,000 to £500,000— a good 25 to 30 per cent less than over at Canary Wharf.
James Turner, manager of Dexters estate agents, attributes the area’s regeneration to developer Ballymore which was the first major company to discover the area. Its luxury New Providence Wharf tower was a hit with buyers from South East Asia, and its success has encouraged others to follow in Ballymore’s footsteps. “Prices have rocketed and if you drive around you see a crazy amount of building going on,” he said.
Despite this activity Blackwall is still probably 10 or 15 years behind Canary Wharf, in terms of its stage of development. It has an eponymous Docklands Light Railway station providing great links to Canary Wharf and the City — but not a great deal more. Buyers will need to have the patience to await the arrival of shops, bars, restaurants and cafés to serve the new flats being built. Before that they will need to head to Canary Wharf to get fed and watered.
On the plus side, while green space is at a premium in this neck of the woods, the surprisingly charming Limmo Peninsula Ecological Park is worth a visit.
Deptford: Great transport links
Before they became homeowners Hannah and Will were renting a flat in Parsons Green – at a cost of £1,500pcm. Thanks to low interest rates the mortgage on their one bedroom flat in Greenland Place, Deptford - a Barratt London development which they moved into last November - is £600pcm cheaper. They paid £423,000 for the flat, using a deposit of £25,000.
This hefty saving means that Hannah Quick, 27, and Will Alexander, 29, have considerably more disposable income now than they have been used to, especially since they had to save hard to raise their deposit. “We didn’t go on holiday for two years, we took packed lunches to work every day, we didn’t buy new clothes,” said Will, 29. “We were just really disciplined.”
Of course their deposit was not their only moving cost – they also had to raise £12,000 to pay off their Stamp Duty bill. As first time buyers they felt they needed some help with the financial side of things and so, on the recommendation of a friend, they went to a mortgage advisor who guided them to a two year fixed rate mortgage at 1.69 per cent with Santander.
The flat itself they chose more for the potential of Deptford and for its great transport links. Will works for a tech start-up and Hannah is an art director – unsurprisingly they spend a lot of time in Shoreditch.
“We couldn’t afford to live somewhere we really wanted so we got somewhere we could get there really easily,” said Will. So far the couple haven’t had much of a chance to explore Deptford – they’ve only been in situ a couple of months – but are looking forward to finding out more about the area and to the new bars and restaurants which are starting to open around them.
They hope that as the area develops so their flat will increase in value. “We are expecting to live here about three years and then, hopefully, get somewhere a bit bigger,” said Will.