Property: Forget the price escalator. Find a place that rockets

There is nothing like spotting an up-and-coming area before it arrives. Early defensiveness turns to quiet triumphalism as rising prices prove your point. In London, a few areas have seen particularly startling increases. Penny Jackson reports on areas that are now in the Premier League

Leading the field of the newly-fashionable is Notting Hill, in west London, which according to a review by Savills Research, has increased in popularity by 50 per cent within 10 years.

Startlingly, Wandsworth, in south-west London, is now regarded as prime, while among the new residential areas close to the City, Clerkenwell epitomises the successful trend for turning old industrial buildings into New York style lofts.

So why do so many more people now want to move to these parts of London? We spoke to three recent buyers about their choice. Margot Steinberg , a Canadian actress and theatre producer, bought her flat in Ladbroke Grove, Notting Hill in the spring.

She had tired of the transient feel of Kensington as much as being priced out of the area: "I was a little nervous of moving here. It seemed exciting, even a little bit dangerous, although unlike New York I never feel in any personal danger.

"I already knew it because a lot of my favourite restaurants and cafes were in Notting Hill. I love it here. There is a wonderful mix of people and there is real buzz during the daytime because there are so many actors and artists around. It doesn't die during office hours.

"I fell in love with my flat as soon as I walked through the door although it took me a good six months to find it. It has really big rooms, with lovely proportions. I could have sold it the day after I bought it for 10 per cent more."

She likes the fact also that it is not entirely gentrified and that it is clearly popular with families. "Just before I moved in there was a big party in the communal gardens. You really feel you belong somewhere and for someone like me who has no family in the country that is really important. I hope it doesn't become too fashionable and designery."

A similar flat closer to Ladbroke Grove tube station would cost in the region of pounds 200,000 according to Winkworth, the estate agents. They are selling a two bedroom, two bathroom maisonette near the crest of the hill, with the use of communal gardens, for pounds 327,500.

Properties in the area have risen 20 per cent in the last year. An unmodernised four-bedroom house near the tube sells for pounds 340,000 while a larger house on the communal gardens can be worth at least pounds 2.5m.

In its research, Savills found that green spaces and large period family houses were among the biggest incentives for people to move out of central London. Working couples with children are less prepared to commute from afar than they were.

A few years ago, Matthew Kaye, a partner in Chesterfield, the estate agents, might have considered moving out to the country now that his wife is expecting their second child. Instead they have moved to a large house in a quiet Wandsworth street with a good garden.

A staging post to the country, perhaps, but one where families tend to linger. "I often have to work in the evenings and it would be impossible if I lived a long way. I like to be able to drive to work in 15 minutes," he says. "Although prices have shot up, in effect after work done to the house we paid no more than the pounds 360,000 we got for our two-bedroom, two- bathroom Knightsbridge flat."

The village feel of the common has a particular appeal. Volvos and labradors are as much in evidence as in Sussex. "Most of our neighbours are young, married with children. We all go to the same playgroups, nurseries or schools. In fact the schools are good and are enormous draw."

A lot of Wandsworth's buyers are exiles from Chelsea and still regard Peter Jones as their local shop. "This is a good move for the archetypal Sloane Ranger", adds Mr Kaye.

The leafy outlier was just what Lindsay Etchells, a solicitor, and her partner wanted to escape. They left Balham, south London, for an old print works in Clerkenwell when the market was its most depressed during the early '90s and there was only a scattering of redevelopment.

"The building was derelict and gave us a huge amount of space," she says. "We have created our own house within walking distance of the City, Covent Garden, Islington, the South Bank, you name it. It has a strong Italian community - a festival every summer, and wonderful delis all within a stone's throw. It is a lovely mixed area of people and architecture".

Along with its new chic image that rivals the most improved areas of Docklands, has come an explosion of restaurants. "We can walk home from work, find the the fridge empty, and pop out to some of the best eateries in town", says Lindsay Etchells.

According to Lee Clements of agents Jarvis Keller, it would be almost impossible today to find the kind of undeveloped space Lindsay Etchells bought. About 1,000 sq feet would have cost less than pounds 150,000 in '92, whereas today it would be pounds 250,000 plus.

THAT WAS THEN.THIS IS NOW

How prices have risen 1992 1997

Notting Hill W2: pounds 350,000 pounds 700,000 4-bed house, Northumberland Avenue

Wandsworth SW18 pounds 450,000 pounds 800,000

6-bed house,

Baskerville Road

Clerkenwell WC1 pounds 100,000 pounds 250,000

1,000 sq ft

of loft space

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