Property: Hot Spot Tooting, south London - Tooting: the popular front - Life and Style - The Independent

Property: Hot Spot Tooting, south London - Tooting: the popular front

Subtlety is not Tooting's strong point. Not only does this south- London area have more than its fair share of cemeteries and hospitals, but each of its two large hospitals has an adjacent cemetery so close as to seem part of the medical facility itself. This does not exactly inspire confidence.

There are Tootings galore. Near Upper Tooting is Tooting Bec, followed by Tooting Broadway, both of which are on the Underground and both of which are south of Balham in roughly half-mile increments. Further south is Tooting Graveney, which sounds like more hospital-cemetery shenanigans but is actually a family name. If you want a Tooting in its pure, unmodified state, you'll have to hang round the railway station at the southern boundary of the area.

Tooting is surrounded by pricey neighbours which, these days, includes Earlsfield as well as the usual suspects, Wandsworth, Clapham, Balham and Wimbledon. Tooting is attracting overspill from these areas, in addition to buoyant local demand.

"Tooting is much cheaper than Balham," says Dorian Black of Peterman estate agents. "Investors are attracted because the Tube brings in rental tenants. St George's is a teaching hospital for nurses as well as doctors, so there are many non- local people, including foreigners, who live here temporarily."

Period properties on quiet roads surround a bustling high street: "We have an extremely busy shopping centre at Tooting Broadway, several indoor markets with street traders, a Marks & Spencer and all the multiples too, such as Woolies and Dixons," says Mr Black.

His views are echoed by Robert Tray of Kinleigh, Folkard & Hayward: "Tooting is affordable, is getting a new shopping centre as well as a much-needed supermarket, and is on the Underground. Parking is a problem, although a new red-route system will undoubtedly be of benefit to locals."

According to Mr Black: "The primary schools here are good, the secondaries are fantastic in Tooting Bec, and there are several preparatory and private schools comprising two or three houses which have been knocked together. And Graveney is good for primary schools."

For good value, Mr Black recommends "the area on and around Franciscan Road. It is very close to everything, and the houses are bigger and better kept."

If money is tight, he suggests an ex-council flat: "There are some local authority blocks along Garratt Lane and also on Tooting High Street. They are pretty grim in architecture.

"The walkways are on the outside, for example, but the council has recently done a lot to improve them. Many of them have been bought privately, but on certain blocks a majority are still owned by the council. The private owners bought their flats with the sole purpose of letting them out."

Tooting is "not trendy yet - but it will be," says Mr Black, confidently. "We handle commercial as well as residential property, and we are now getting enquiries about wine bars. Ethnically, Tooting is a bit like the United Nations."

The Low-Down

Prices: One- or two-bed ex-council flats are available for pounds 40- pounds 55,000; three bedrooms for pounds 60,000. One-bedroom conversions sell for pounds 70,000, and two-bedrooms go for pounds 80-pounds 90,000.

Houses are priced between pounds 100,000 and pounds 140,000 but can go higher - much higher - for larger properties or proximity to Wandsworth or the Heaver Estate, east of Balham High Road. The area also contains large, purpose- built period maisonettes.

A Hospital too Far: Fairview's Heritage Park is rising on the site of the area's third major medical institution, the former Tooting Bec Hospital, across from the two commons (Tooting Bec and Tooting Graveney). One- two- and three-bedroom flats and town houses are being built and, if central government concurs, a complex of 800 residential units will result. Four- bedroom, three-storey town houses are currently available from pounds 217,000. One-bedroom flats will follow shortly. New Barratt and other nearly-new properties also adorn an area that mostly comprises three-bedroom Victorian and Edwardian houses. Barratt's town houses (three bedrooms/bathrooms/storeys) start at pounds 290,000.

Little and Large: "If you get a garden larger than 25 feet you are doing very well," says Folkards Tray. However, John D Wood estate agents are selling a five-bedroom, four-reception Victorian villa with a 149-foot garden and an pounds 850,000 price tag on Brodrick Road. These roads near Wandsworth Common have wider thoroughfares and larger gardens.

Transport: Northern Line (zone 3) serves the City and West End. Thameslink (Tooting) serves Blackfriars and Kings Cross, and connects to the Bakerloo Line at Elephant & Castle. Many bus lines.

Council Tax: The council is Wandsworth, and Band D is pounds 370.

Local Amenities: Shops include Kostatino's hand-made shoes, the Sugar Art Centre (cake-making), and George King Metals.

Bespoke flip-flops? The parks offer tennis, bowling and the Tooting Bec Lido, London's largest outdoor swimming pool.

Estate Agents and Developers: Barratt South London, 0181-647 9699; Fairview, 0181-682 0561; John D Wood, 0181-871 3033; Kinleigh Folkard & Hayward, 0181-767 1400; Peterman, 0181-673 8881; Rolfe East, 0181-682 2255.

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