The Going Rate: Like the lady, the suburb's not for turning

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FINCHLEY has lost its special status with the retirement of the area's famous recent MP but, like Lady Thatcher, still considers itself a cut above the rest. Clean streets, low crime rates and good schools have sheltered the north London suburb from the slump's worst ravages, says Jeremy Leaf, a local surveyor.

In the cosmopolitan eastern area, he has just sold a new studio in Fortis Green for pounds 43,000 which came on the market for a little under pounds 50,000 in January. In the more middle-class north, a two-bed purpose-built flat in Holden Road went in three weeks after falling pounds 4,500 to pounds 68,000.

A renovated two-bed terraced house in Finchley Park came down by more than pounds 10,000 to pounds 85,500 in three months, while a three-bed purpose- built flat in Lyttleton Road fell only pounds 3,000 to pounds 76,000 in the same period, despite being a repossession. A three- bed conversion in Avondale Avenue dropped pounds 10,000 and took seven months to sell at pounds 105,000, but a terraced three-bed in Highwood Avenue went in three weeks after dropping pounds 8,000 to pounds 107,000. A three-bed semi in Abbots Gardens fell pounds 5,000 in just over two months to pounds 150,000.

FARNHAM has also avoided the horrendous falls seen in commuterland around the Surrey/Hampshire borders, mainly because of its attractive Georgian architecture and easy access to both London and green belt. Robert Baird of Hamptons Messenger May has even seen an upturn. 'Buying is back to 1988/1989 levels,' he says.

Prices are not, however. A two-bed flat in the town centre fell pounds 4,000 to go for pounds 68,000, while a two-bed cottage in the southern area dropped pounds 2,000 to pounds 90,500. But they did sell in three weeks and seven days respectively. A three-bed Victorian cottage in the outlying village of Churt took a month, falling pounds 4,000 to pounds 135,000. Another in Crondall took the same time to go but fetched pounds 143,000, dropping pounds 6,000 from the original price.

Also in Churt, a four-bed detached sat on the market for a year at pounds 275,000 until Mr Baird persuaded the owner to take a 10 per cent cut. It then went within a week for pounds 245,000. Meanwhile, in Thursley, a similar house in an acre of land sold at the asking price of pounds 335,000 in two weeks, showing that if prices are pitched correctly homes can sell quickly.