Hot Spot: Balham, south London

It's not Clapham, and it's been living in its shadow. But many first-time buyers are finding this a pleasant corner of London to settle in.
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The Independent Online

With Balham as with Clapham, you can see the property boom in the Volvos and Range Rovers that line the streets. You can also hear it in the way the name is pronounced: Blahm.

With Balham as with Clapham, you can see the property boom in the Volvos and Range Rovers that line the streets. You can also hear it in the way the name is pronounced: Blahm.

"New developments are changing the face of Balham," says Giles Underhill of Foxtons estate agents. "Persimmon is building 29 luxury flats on Balham Hill, Metropolis is redeveloping flats and houses on Bedford Hill, and Tiger Hill is converting the old cinema into eight loft-style apartments."

Michael Shanly's Nightingale Mews will show barely a trace of the old Unigate dairy, but Sapcote Real Loft's refurbishments of an Edwardian school last year and a Victorian school this year have been inside jobs. Similarly, Tiger Hill's cinema redevelopment is preserving the striking art deco style.

Many buyers who initially head for Clapham and Battersea get diverted to Balham because they get more for their money, and also because Balham has the same Victorian terrace housing stock, good schools and good transport, says Mr Underhill.

"Snob values are still around," admits Alex Bartlett of Bushells. "If you live off Balham Hill or Balham High Road, you say you live in Clapham South, but if you live on the Heaver estate in Balham, you probably say you live on the Heaver Estate."

The Heaver Estate "is more family orientated, although it has some nice purpose-built maisonettes", says Mr Bartlett. The other prestigious area in Balham, Nightingale Triangle, "has more maisonettes and smaller properties, is nearer the bars and restaurants of Battersea and attracts younger buyers, although Nightingale Square has large houses selling for about £1m".

Buyers tend to be locals. "Usually they have been renting in this area and seen the improvement," says Mr Bartlett. "Balham has improved on the back of Battersea and Clapham. Everyone feels there is room for growth. Balham prices are 10 per cent behind Clapham and 15 to 20 per cent behind Battersea."

The lower prices are accompanied by enviable capital growth. Foxtons branch manager Mary Robinson bought a two-bedroomed flat with a roof garden in Balham in May 1999 for £155,000. Its value has now increased to £225,000.

Geraldine Wyllie of estate agents Heaver says Balham prices rose last year by a nifty 35 per cent.

The Low-Down

Transport

Balham is on the Northern Line. It has rail services to Clapham Junction, Victoria and Waterloo, and buses to Tooting, Elephant and Castle, Brixton, Mitcham and Crystal Palace.

Prices

Converted flats are about £150,000 (one bed) and £225,000 (two), while new flats with parking are £200,000 (one bed) and £250,000 (two).

Properties

Foxtons has a two-bed, end-terrace house on Old Acre Mews, and a two-bed garden flat on Endlesham Road, for £249,950. Second-hand units at The Old Hyde Farm School, Sapcote's first Balham conversion, can now be bought.

From popcorn to wine

Tiger Hill's Foyer is so named because the apartments will be in the cinema's foyer. Most apartments, cost £287,000 to £400,000, will be duplex or have a terrace.

Out of milk

At Nightingale Mews, Chestnut Grove, Shanly is building a gated complex wired for the internet and digital home entertainment. Two-beds start at £279,950, and larger houses sell for £465,000.

Clapham Village

Sapcote's new 31-loft development is in Clapham Village, just over a mile away. All units are shells, and some have 25ft ceilings. A ground floor loft with patio garden sells for £195,000.

On yer bike

Sapcote has organised a bike pool for residents of Clapham Park.Nearby attractions include an original windmill.

Three parks

Balham nestles between Wands-worth, Clapham and Tooting Bec Commons. Balham Leisure Centre has a 25m swimming pool. An ice rink is located in Streatham.

Two codes and councils

Balham strides two postal codes (SW12 and SW17), as well as two councils. Band D council tax is £398 in Wandsworth but rises to £656 in Lambeth.

Contacts

Bushells, 020-8772 1001; Foxtons, 020-7801 1111; Sapcote Real Lofts 020-7937 3878; Heaver, 020-8767 7079.

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