South of the river, fifty grand can still go a way.
A RECENT article in this section asked what pounds 500,000 buys you in London or the Home Counties; the answer, sadly, was not very much.

How much harder is it, then, when your budget is confined to pounds 50,000? Along with first-timers, downsizers and investors, I went scouring London's streets in pursuit of a bargain.

Optimistically I start north of the river with Joanna Haydon-Knowell, of Muswell Hill agency JHK. "You might get something in Tottenham or Wood Green but no chance here. Good one-bedroom flats around achieve around pounds 90,000 and I've just sold a studio for pounds 82,000."

Taking Joanna's advice I head for Walthamstow, which does have the Victoria Line in its favour. Warren Byrne, of Spicer McColl, says most first-time buyers "come in at pounds 60,000" but says that it is just possible to stay below the pounds 50,000 mark. "You can't get much here because we're well served by transport." Currently on offer at pounds 49,995 is a first floor one-bedroom conversion flat in a Thirties house that needs decorating but does have a 60ft garden.

So, although cabbies may balk at your outrageous request to go there, south of the river may be your best bet - but just how south? Not far at all, according to Stephen King, owner of Grange Hill Estates, whose beat extends from the Elephant to Rotherhithe. He says that pounds 50,000 will bag you a two-bedroom flat (three with an extra pounds 5,000, and that's in zone one: "This is the last cheap corner of London. It really is the only hot spot left."

Lately Stephen has queues of investment buyers waiting to snap up the ex-council properties. Two-bedroom flats in Elephant and Castle and on the Northern and Bakerloo lines currently cost as little as pounds 53,000 but produce rental incomes of around pounds 230 per week.

Could the glut of investment buyers come unstuck when they wish to sell? "Pick your estate carefully," advises Stephen. "If you're only concerned with rent and aren't planning to make money on the resale it's not so important, but while some flats, for example on the Aylesbury estate, are lovely and big , when it comes to reselling you have a problem."

Banks' and building societies' reluctance to lend on ex-council stock has eased and some now consider flats above the eighth floor. Grange Hill has on offer at pounds 55,995 an ex-council two-bedroom flat with balcony in Ightam House, SE1.

For another source of bargains, look up. Above the multitude of commercial properties are flats which offer great value and access to transport.

Halifax is selling a one bedroom flat in need of refurbishment over a shop in Hinton Road, SE24 (Brixton) for pounds 25,000. It is 15 minutes' walk from the Tube and near Loughborough Junction overground on the Thameslink line.

Halifax also has a two-bedroom property over a shop, for pounds 43,950 in Peckham Rye, SE15. Victoria is just a 15-minute ride from Peckham Rye station.

Auctions often turn up surprises. Andrews & Robertson's next sale is on 16 April, and the catalogue features many London properties with guide price tags of pounds 50,000 or less.

Going under the hammer is a freehold three-floor semi-detached house (complete with tenant) in Clapham with a guide price of pounds 10,000. Buy this and a one-bedroom flat in Deptford for pounds 20,000 and you could still have the pounds 15,000 needed for an advertising hoarding in West Norwood - should this be your heart's desire.

Venture into the depths of south-east London and possibilities widen. Zone three and beyond brings period features and even the chance to own part of a listed building. Letts Residential has a flat converted from a listed Ministry of Defence building in Woolwich with a gallery style bedroom and private courtyard for pounds 56,995.

"In Woolwich and Plumstead you can buy two-bedroom houses or three-bedroom flats for pounds 50,000," says negotiator Adrian Strong. He is also keenly awaiting improved transport links, which will make properties such as the two-bedroom modern house near to Woolwich centre he is selling at pounds 56,000 even more attractive.

Out in Thamesmead pounds 43,000 buys a three-bedroom town house overlooking Southmere Lake and pounds 52,995 a four-bedroom town house, both through Halifax's Abbey Wood branch.

Buying means compromise and at the bottom end of the market this may involve shifting your sights a bit further. Fifty grand won't get you Mayfair, but it can get you a toe on the ladder. Happy hunting.

Letts Residential: 0181-317 3317; JHK: 0181-883 5485; Spicer McColl: 0181-509 0931; Halifax Abbey Wood: 0181-311 0102; Halifax Dulwich: 0181- 299 3711; Grange Hill Estates: 0171-237 4333; Andrews & Robertson Auction: 0171-703 2662