Property Hot Spot: Wimbledon, South-West London - Great for mixed singles

You may not find the Wombles on the common, but `two-faced' SW19 has a wide property range that appeals to all classes, from the established rich to the young and rootless.

Generally, when we outgrow our current space, we acquire, expand, extend or move. These options apply to tennis clubs as well as to people. Founded in 1868, Wimbledon's most famous resident, the All England Croquet Club obtained four acres on Worple Road in downtown Wimbledon a year later.

In 1920, with "Lawn Tennis" having been added to its name, the club purchased land at its current location on Church Road "after efforts to extend the boundaries of the old ground by buying adjoining properties had failed." (Alan Little, 1999 Wimbledon Compendium.)

Similar relocations are still taking place: "It is a natural move for growing families in Putney, who want to stay on the District Line, to move to Wimbledon, which is cheaper," says Stephen Pither, associate partner at one local estate agents, Ellisons.

However, as Wombles and tennis historians know, Wimbledon is two-faced. The town centre has a major rail/underground station, department store, numerous shops, leisure and entertainment centres, and a new shopping centre.

A half-mile uphill, Wimbledon Village and its surrounding area, while more thickly settled than earlier this century, is still relatively green - remarkably so given that the West End is barely 10 miles distant.

Of London's many urban villages, the one with the Wimbledon prefix doesn't merely look villagey, it is genuinely rustic, located on the edge of 1,100- acre Wimbledon Common.

"The common, communications, schools and cafe society - these are Wimbledon's main attractions, in addition to three golf courses, horseriding, tennis and sailing. You stroll through the common and arrive at a pub without using your car," says a local estate agent and long-time Wimbledon resident, Robert Holmes.

Like most affluent suburbs, SW19 has its share of four-, five- and six- bedroom houses with large gardens, but atypically, Wimbledon Village also contains mansions on estates measured in acres, not length of garden. These estates would not be out of place in deepest Kent.

"The expensive houses are owner-occupied. These large properties simply do not provide enough yield for investors, who buy flats, which are easier to let because of Wimbledon's good communications," Mr Holmes explains. "Flats are easy to manage and provide good capital growth. The nice thing about Wimbledon is that it contains a great mixture of people, and not just different nationalities, but also different classes.

"In other similar parts of Surrey, in middle England generally, everyone is a brigadier."

Mr Pither concurs: "There's an enormous range of rentals, and a lot of international renters, especially South Africans, Australians and New Zealanders. They are in banking or IT or other professions, many on two- or three-year contracts."

Wimbledon is increasingly amenable to singles. "When I started here seven years ago, there were three pubs on the Broadway," says Mr Pither. "Now there are 13.

"There is also a wide range of restaurants. Wimbledon is a very affluent and sociable area."

Wimbledon continues to score points with property developers such as Pathfinder and Laing, who are currently completing major projects both in town and near to the common. Several significant smaller projects are also in the works.

Mr Pither highlights another kind of property development: "In the last 18 months, about 10 shops have been converted back into residential. It shows the strength of the market that builders are confident enough to do this," he says.

The Low-Down

Transport

The District Line of the Tube and the overground at Wimbledon station are being joined by the Tramlink service, which will serve Croydon, Beckenham Junction and New Addington and many areas in between. Thameslink service is available at Haydon's Road, on the eastern edge of Wimbledon.

Prices

Flats start at pounds 100,000-pounds 120,000; anything cheaper will be above a shop, ex-council, on a busy road, in poor condition or has no garden, says Mr Pither. Cottages start at pounds 200,000, and three-bedroom houses in South Park Gardens can sell for pounds 275,000, but larger or better located houses can exceed pounds 500,000. Large "country" houses sell in the millions of pounds.

Anyone for renting?

Advantage to large houses near the All England Lawn Tennis Club: "For the three-week tennis championships, homeowners can get between pounds 17,000 and pounds 18,000. They can usually time their own holiday to go to their country home during the tournament," says Mr Holmes.

Town and Gown

Pathfinder's Wimbledon Central in a former BT office building has 104 apartments in three self-contained blocks across from the station. Only two flats remain, both penthouses, at pounds 390,000 and pounds 450,000. Laing's Wimbledon Parkside, formerly Southlands College, is between Queensmere and Inner Park Road, and features apartments, mews houses and town houses. Flats have one, two or three bedrooms, and most have a terrace or balcony and car parking. Prices start at pounds 245,000.

Small is beautiful

Rowan Terrace, by Heritage Property Restoration, has six refurbished terraced houses near the station; they feature large attic rooms suitable as a lounge, a bedroom or an office. Three remain at pounds 349,000. The Rydons, by Michael Shanly Homes, includes a lodge, conversion apartments and 16 new four-storey town houses, on Ridgway near the Common.

Parks

In addition to the Common, the area contains several small neighbourhood parks and recreation grounds, including the sizeable Wimbledon Park, with its own tennis courts, a large lake, an athletics track, bowling green and other facilities. Directly opposite is the celebrated All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club.

Nguyen Van Thieu slept here

When he was in exile, the former President of South Vietnam lived in a 1927 Tudor-style house, The Chantry, which is set in an acre of landscaped gardens and includes a Japanese-style water garden and tea house. This eight-bedroom house has four reception rooms, timber beams, a stone fireplace and Jacobean panels house - and it is yours for pounds 3m through Robert Holmes & Co.

Contacts

Robert Holmes is on 0181-947 9833; Ellisons is on 0181-944 9494.

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