House Hunter: South London flats

'Can I find an affordable London flat?'
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My daughter Christine starts work as a designer at the Elephant and Castle in south London in the new year and needs to live close by, perhaps in Camberwell, Kennington, or at the Elephant itself.

This is the first time she will be living away from home so we want to be sure she has the best property available. We have a budget of £200,000 so we know this means only a flat, but we want somewhere with period elegance (so no post-Second World War council flats, for example) and because we know the area has a reputation for crime we need good security (so no ground floor or basement flats).

Christine will be living alone so we need only have a one-bedroom property, preferably close to public transport.

It is possible that if she changes job or moves out of London in a few years from now, we may want to keep the flat to rent out so any advice on the lettings market in south London would be appreciated, too.

Is there very much available to us? Am I being over-optimistic in wanting a period property?

The Advice


The areas of south London where Christine wants to live receive an unfairly bad press, because of their social problems and the dowdy architecture that characterises modern developments.

But there are many outstanding period properties, and homes built before the 1960s have higher ceilings and larger rooms than more modern homes. And because south London property is generally 15 per cent cheaper than comparable stock north of the river, it offers good value for money.

The average flat in inner-London/Lambeth sells for £209,192 according to the Land Registry, while a typical flat in the next borough, Southwark, is £235,218. Compare those prices with similar boroughs in north London like Camden(£339,176) or Islington (£270,376).

South of the river, homes near tubes are dearer than those near bus stops, but Transport for London says there are more bus services to the West End from the Camberwell and Elephant areas than from any other part of the capital.

One of the most striking period developments is The Pullens apartments built close to Walworth Road during a 50-year period prior to 1900. Today, many craft and media businesses are based in small workshops in cobbled yards nearby. Much of the area was saved from demolition in the 1980s and most flats are privately owned, although some are still run by Southwark Council.

In 1801 the population of Camberwell was 7,000 but a century later, thanks to the arrival of trains and a massive building programme, it was 260,000. Although many of the homes built during those periods were bombed during the Second World War or became slums in the 1950s, many of those remaining have now been restored.

In Kennington there are several gentrified streets with flats in terraced Victorian townhouses. Fentiman Road is a well-known example, where some MPs have their London flats because they are fairly cheap and only 10 minutes from Westminster on the frequent bus service.

The Solution

Property one: First-floor Pullens period apartment, Iliffe Street

Price: £195,000

Agent's details: Built between 1886 and 1905, this flat has one double bedroom, a reception and a dining room, a kitchen and shower room, plus access to a communal roof terrace.

The property is a five-minute walk from the Elephant & Castle and Kennington underground stations.

Agent: Ludlow Thompson, 020-7820 4100.

Property two: One-bedroom flat, Camberwell New Road, SE5.

Price: £155,000.

Agent's details: Top floor of a Grade II-listed Georgian house.

Double bedroom, bathroom, fitted kitchen. It is 10 minutes from Oval underground station; close to major bus routes to the West End.

Agent: Kinleigh Folkard & Hayward, 020-7582 7773.

Property three: An open-plan apartment, Gabriel's Manor, near the Oval, SE5.

Price: £175,000.

Agent's details: This apartment is in a converted monastery just 10 minutes from Oval underground. The property consists of a "living space", a kitchen, a shower room, a lobby and a "sleeping area"; there is also a parking space and a roof terrace.

Agent: Kinleigh Folkard & Hayward, 020-7582 7773.

Fact File

Although supply and demand for rental properties change quite quickly, south London's rental market has been stronger than any other area of the capital so far this year according to Cluttons, an estate agency monitoring lettings across London. After some years of gentle falls, high demand means rents are now rising slightly. Lettings agents say one-bedroom apartments in the Camberwell, Kennington and Elephant areas would fetch £155 to £225 a week, depending on size, condition and proximity to transport.

Many landlords in the area buy former local authority flats. Although unappealing in some ways, they offer more space at less cost. They still sell for up to 20 per cent less than a comparably-sized flat in a block that has always been privately owned. Kennington has good transport links with the nearby Underground stations of Vauxhall, Elephant & Castle, Kennington and Oval.

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