The Millennium Dome is at the heart of a London success story
THE MILLENNIUM may mean a bigger knees-up than normal for many, but for buyers and sellers in Greenwich it has another significance. Are house prices escalating within staggering distance of the Dome?

"Too early to tell," says Doug Norris, manager of John Payne Residential's Greenwich office, who believes that improved transport in the form of the Docklands Light Railway and the Jubilee Line extension may be just as significant. But whatever the reason, "it will be a big year for us".

Mr Norris has seen price rises of between 30 and 50 per cent in the last two years but, in line with the rest of the country, predicts steady, not startling future increases.

On the river front, one of the largest developments is Millennium Quay, where developers Fairview are building 580 properties ranging from one- bedroomed apartments to town houses. Will this flood the market and dampen prices?

"We need more housing in Greenwich," says Mr Norris.

In January, two-bedroom flats in Millennium Quay fetched pounds 70,000, apparently with queues around the block. Five hundred applicants are on the waiting list for the next phase which goes on sale later this month when similar- sized properties are expected to sell for around pounds 90,000.

Amanda Ridley and Yi Guo currently own a flat in Camden, north London, but are considering a Greenwich defection.

"It's a good time to buy before the Tube goes in," says Amanda. "It feels exciting to be part of something new, and it's a great area for families."

She believes that pounds 90,000 is cheap for a riverside flat. "We will stay for a while and then sell. It will take us up the ladder a couple of notches."

For buyers who prefer a slice of history, Mr Norris has four three-storey houses carved from a church hall on Devonshire Drive for pounds 260,000. A new agency, Trading Places, which specialises in "the weird and wonderful", believes this area is often overlooked; it is marketing a penthouse apartment in a Victorian school conversion for pounds 360,000.

Buyers chasing an SE10 address at a knockdown price could do worse than visit an auction. Last week Hyde Housing Association sold several properties through Allsop that included two four-storey houses on Old Woolwich Road that went for pounds 110,000 and pounds 176,000. Both needed refurbishment, but Mr Norris estimates that, in top condition, four-bedroom houses there should command pounds 200,000. This month he will market a refurbished cottage in Caradoc Street for around pounds 150,000, and two properties in the same road sold for pounds 105,500 and pounds 107,500 at auction.

Agents find that Greenwich now attracts a younger, professional clientele, but, for buyers with expectations larger than their pockets, Mr Norris advises exploring the fringes. Charlton is certainly grateful to its increasingly popular neighbour; "It's put us on the map," says Marjorie Baptiste, of Hindwoods and White Dent's Charlton office.

Hindwoods currently has no large period properties on offer, as Ms Baptiste explains: "They get snapped up immediately."

Just 20 minutes by train to London Bridge, the area has a large rentals market: "We get a lot of pre-married, pre-mortgage professionals working in the City, but the property must look good. These days people don't expect shabby."

A good-quality one-bedroom property fetches a monthly rental average of pounds 500.

SE7 offers value and, while lacking the cachet of an SE10 address, benefits from Dome views at a fraction of the cost. More intimate views will soon include residents in Victorian dress (complete with corsets) when Wall To Wall Television films the second phase of its series, 1900 House, commissioned by Channel Four. Executive producer Leanne Klein calls the programme a "living experiment".

"The idea is to show how our everyday lives have changed since 1900 thanks to scientific improvements and technological advancements," she says.

Ms Klein turned househunter as she searched the borough for a house where a family could live as Victorians (plus television cameras and crew) for three months: "I spent days trailing the streets armed with Ordnance Survey maps searching for the right-sized property which would have housed a lower-middle-class family."

Ms Klein found much of Greenwich too expensive for her budget (up to pounds 200,000), and many buildings were pre-Victorian, unsuitable for the programme's rigid requirements: "Millions of houses were built at the end of the last century, and statistics show that around 40 per cent of us now live in houses dating back to that period."

She eventually bought a house in Elliscombe Road, in the Blackheath area, for pounds 130,000, but her priorities were different from most buyers: "We wanted it as horrible as possible to film its restoration. We were looking for a Seventies nightmare and we found it."

Ms Klein made many discoveries behind the Formica: "We found the original Victorian wallpaper underneath, and the neighbours have let us look around their houses as all the houses in the street were built by the same builder."

Finding the house was harder than finding a family willing to live without the comforts of central heating, electricity and hot water for three months. Some 450 families applied, and now that restoration is almost complete, the successful family is about to move in. 1900 House will be screened this autumn.

John Payne Residential: 0181-858 9911; Fairview: 0181-366 1271; Hamptons International: 0171-493 8222; Trading Spaces: 0171-277 4994; Hindwoods & White Dent: 0181-858 3379; Allsop & Co Residential Auction: 0171-494 3686

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