Stroud Green is an area of north London whose identity and reputation do not extend much beyond its own borders. Obscure it may be, but it has solid transportation links and illustrious neighbours - a potent combination for rising property values.

Stroud Green is a residential enclave surrounded by Finsbury Park, Holloway, Crouch End, Hornsey and Harringay. The station at Finsbury Park serves two Underground lines (Piccadilly and Victoria) and two distinct rail lines: one provides direct connections to the City, and the other is a main line linking Kings Cross to Cambridge and other north-east destinations. The bus terminal at Finsbury Park connects with bus routes which fan out in all directions.

Most sections of Stroud Green involve a train and bus journey, but the bus service is frequent, and the area is fairly convenient for the City and West End. It is consequently attracting spillover from Islington and immediate neighbour Crouch End.

The area's many period houses have mostly been converted, but a significant number remain intact, including five-bedroom and the occasional six-bedroom property. Stroud Green thus attracts growing families as well as singles and childless couples.

The streets on and near Mount View Road are the most sought-after and the most expensive, with prices topping pounds 400,000. Prices drop precipitously on other roads. Three-bedroom houses in reasonable condition are available for less than pounds 150,000. Decent two-bedroom flats in period conversions on attractive streets sell for less than pounds 100,000, and ex-council and studio flats in converted houses sell for less than pounds 50,000.

"Stroud Green is getting city professionals with children, who decide that, instead of a flat or small house in Islington, it is worth going a half-mile north for a character three- or four-bedroom house for the same price," says Geoff Vedgen of Bairstow Eves. "The schools are surprising good, especially up to age 11, and then the families move to Crouch End or Muswell Hill."

The area's housing infrastructure is benefiting from gentrification. David Copestake, managing director of David Philips estate agents, believes that "the schools have been improving because the area has been improving. Ten years ago, many properties here were neglected. Now, there are more owner-occupiers and they take better care of their homes. There are no more Ford Cortinas in the front garden."

The council estates have also improved - "even Holly Park, which used to have a bad reputation and is now fine," says Mr Copestake. "Holly Park is still mostly council tenants. In other estates, the ratio of council tenants has gone from 90 per cent to 40 per cent. Communal areas are clean, and the blocks well maintained."

Stroud Green has some purpose-built modern houses and blocks of flats, especially near Manor House, along with an occasional church conversion or other unusual dwelling. In the main, though, period properties predominate.

Property hunters shouldn't automatically write off past or current rail lines. Finsbury Park and Alexandra Park used to be connected by a rail line which, now trackless, is Parkland Walk, a nature reserve. It can lend a genuinely rustic ambience to gardens lucky enough to back onto it.

Even the currently active rail line serving Crouch Hill station is benign. It is lightly used, although goods trains also travel the line.

The Low-Down

Prices: "Prices have gone up since January," reports James Ballard of Winkworth. "Many properties become available, but there is a rapid turnover." Five-bedroom houses sell for pounds 300,000 or more unless they need a great deal of work, when they can go for as little as pounds 175,000.

Properties: Bairstow Eves is currently asking pounds 315,000 for a three-storey corner property with a separate flat on each floor, each vacant. Last winter, a similar house with seven units was on the market. Well used and much abused over the years, these investment properties generally require major refurbishment and can be converted again into one-family premises.

Transport: Finsbury Park Station is in Zone 2. The rail line into the city stops at Old Street and Moorgate. From the bus depot at Finsbury Park station, the W7 proceeds along Stroud Green Road to Crouch End, and the W3 turns onto Stapleton Hall Road and reaches much of Stroud Green via Ferme Park Road. The 210 turns in the other direction, toward Archway and the Islington part of Stroud Green. Crouch Hill station is on the little-used but still chugging Barking-Gospel Oak line.

Shopping and dining: Crouch End is top-heavy with restaurants, but supermarket shopping means a trek to Green Lanes or the Wood Green shopping centre.

Council: Most of Stroud Green is in Haringey; Band D council tax is pounds 898. Band D in Islington is pounds 912.

A council porkie? The Haringey Guide claims that, in addition to birds, bats, and foxes, Parkland Walk is home to muntjac deer.

What a relief! Seven external wall panels on a former dairy now adorn a bar/restaurant. "It cost the brewer a fortune, and it's a big crowd puller to the area," says David Copestake. Otherwise, the extraordinary exterior on the increasingly derelict building faced an uncertain future.

Estate agents: Bairstow Eves, 0181-809 5050; David Philips, 0171-686 7676; Winkworth, 0181-342 9999.