House Doctor: 'How can we find an up-and-coming areas of London to invest in?'

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Question: We're trying to find an up-and-coming area in London to buy a small three-bedroom house. Estate agents in various areas all claim theirs is "the one to watch". Is our search the proverbial pot of gold at rainbow's end or are there really factors to take into account, such as the Olympics and Crossrail?

James Scott, Watford

Answer: Tales of dowdy areas tarting themselves up over the years into des res neighbourhoods continue to appeal. Their boosters – improving transport links, burgeoning affluence and proximity to the centre – are harder to find as very few stones in inner London have been left unturned. However, some quarters due for new or further development are exciting estate agents. Wapping, in east London, is ripe for new housing as part of an infrastructure overhaul, says Cluttons, and is "15 to 20 per cent cheaper than Shad Thames across the river"; it also has the new East London rail line in its favour.

Dalston is still preferred choice of home finder County Homesearch and estate agent Currell; both highlight huge property redevelopment and transport links (East London line again). But hefty prices are already written in – a three-bedroom terraced house starts at around £500,000 and rises to £850,000.

Greater London is a better bet. The key driver here is transport networks and the planned rail and Tube network Crossrail, stretching across London from Maidenhead in the west to Abbeywood and Shenfield in the east, is the biggest in the pipeline. Estate agents in Hayes and Southall – two stops on the route – talk about possible impact on prices: in both areas, a three-bedroom semi currently costs roughly £350,000.

On London's east side, the Olympic 2012 "legacy" effect – Stratford's vastly improved transport links and community facilities – are also expected to lift prices in areas such as East Ham, Barking and Woodford but many agents there say higher house values already reflect change.

However, David Hollingworth at broker London & Country, emphasises that there is "absolutely no guarantee" to future growth in any London area: what's more important is deciding your priority. He says: "You could take a gamble on any of these areas but it can take an awful lot of time, decades even, to see any kind of meaningful return."