Property: Hot Spot Kilburn: Split personality - and we love both

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IF PRIZES for boisterousness were ever given to high streets, Kilburn High Road could go for gold. The relevant time zone for the patrons of Kilburn's pubs and clubs and doner kebab stalls is not Greenwich Mean Time, it's AIT - Afro-Irish Time. This is the high road that never sleeps - and it looks like it.

"The worst aspect of Kilburn is that, if you are happy to live in London in the first place, you have to put up with drug selling and prostitution if you hang around the wrong places," says David Ryan, office manager at Alexanders Estate Agent.

"Don't buy within 150 yards of the high street, because you don't want the noise and bustle to interfere with your home life," Ryan adds.

Beyond the specified yardage, you come to "the nicest aspects of Kilburn - especially for young professionals - which are its pleasant residential roads and closeness to central London".

Kilburn High Road leads directly to Marble Arch - which is a mere quarter of an hour or so away by bus - depending on traffic.

This geographical closeness is only half the story. Kilburn generally enjoys superlative public transport: three Underground lines, several overground rail lines, and buses with uncannily good aim. Getting out of London altogether is also sinfully easy. The North Circular/M1 interchange is close, and main-line stations are easily accessible by public transport.

In terms of property values, Kilburn is always at least simmering, thanks to this embarrassment of transport riches. It absorbs further heat from trendy surrounding areas, according to Allen Stevens, of the estate agents Queen's Park Partners.

Maida Vale has big homes and high prices. West Hampstead has many flats and high prices. Queen's Park has nice homes and is cheaper than Maida Vale and West Hampstead, but is still more expensive than Kilburn.

"Kilburn's High Road is a mess, containing mostly flats. The Queen's Park end is attractive and affordable, and at about pounds 225,000 for a three- bedroom house, it is pounds 50,000 or more cheaper than West Hampstead, which is slightly to the east," Stevens says.

Statistically, Kilburn has a high crime rate, and if you loiter on the High Road after midnight, your chances of becoming a statistic are pretty good.

But this area has two Kilburns - the High Road, and not the High Road. "Kilburn does have a reputation for crime, but no one comes in and tells me to help them move out because they are being terrorised," Stevens says.

In its residential areas, Kilburn is like some of the most pleasant outer London districts, and it is attracting the kind of people who are likely to keep it that way: "We sell a lot of `downhill into Kilburn'," Ryan says.

"For example, an applicant hopes to live in West Hampstead but may be pounds 10,000-12,000 short; and we get higher prices than the Kilburn agent because our applicants are emotionally prepared to spend more."

The Low-down

What borough are we in, anyway? Part of Kilburn is in Brent and part in Camden. Council Tax in Brent ranges from (Band A) pounds 392.62 to (Band H) pounds 1,177.86; in Camden it ranges from (Band A) pounds 585.98 to (Band H) pounds 1,757.98.

Whose park is this, anyway? The large Queen's Parks south of the the Kilburn area is run by the Corporation of the City of London.

Needless to say, like most Corporation parks, it is a pleasant family park that is well maintained and is safe and clean, with a working bandstand and lots of fun entertainment for the children. You will also find jazz, a band and folk music.

Underground: Jubilee, Bakerloo and Metropolitan lines.

Overground: In addition to several rail lines to main-line stations, the North London Line extends from Richmond in the west to Woolwich in the east, via north London, with stops at Hampstead and Camden, and has connections to other lines at Willesden Junction and Highbury & Islington.

Shopping: Hip in the sense of ethnic or organic can be found in Kilburn itself, chic is in nearby Hampstead. It stretches the credibility of Kilburn only a little to say that Oxford Street is just down the road.

Culture: The old cinema has become a bingo hall, but the Tricycle theatre - one of the mainstays of the London fringe - is still going strong.

Prices: One-bedroom flat pounds 85,000-pounds 90,000; two-bedroom flat pounds 100,000; three-bedroom house pounds 220,000. Estate Agents: Alexanders, 0171-431 0666; Homeview Estates, 0171-625 6166; Queen's Park Partnership, 0171-328 2828.

Buy to let? More than half the households in Kilburn are rentals; rents for good flats are about pounds 300 per week.

Surely some mistake? Two separate train stations at the southern end of Kilburn bear the unremarkable name Kilburn: near the high street is the eponymous Kilburn High Road rail station, and just off the high road is Kilburn Park underground station (Bakerloo Line).

Arriving at Brondesbury rail station, you deduce naturally enough that you have gone beyond Kilburn's northern edge, except that further on is Kilburn Underground station (Metropolitan and Jubilee lines). Brondesbury Villas, one of the better residential streets in Kilburn, is on the other, the southern, side of Kilburn, and is nowhere near either Brondesbury Park rail station or Brondesbury station. It is, however, close to Queen's Park rail and Underground stations.