House Hunter: 'We love the north London nightlife but have been priced out of the best areas'

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The Independent Online

THE PROBLEM

Guy Taylor writes: "My colleague Darren McCarthy and I have known each other for around two years and during that time we sought to consolidate our finances by renting a two-bedroom flat in south London. This has worked out well for both of us but, as property prices seem to be continuing to rise, and we are now in our late twenties, we are both starting to feel that we should be investing in property.

"We work in central London for a design company and are finding travelling time a problem in our hectic lives. We've looked at purchasing in Islington and Muswell Hill, which both have good transport links, but find that the prices are too high there - our budget is around the £250,000 mark.

"We are looking for several things. First, we want a property that requires little or no maintenance as we are far too busy having a good time to spend our evenings and weekends doing DIY. Second, we would like something that has three bedrooms so that we can rent out the third room, which would help towards our mortgage. We know this is a tall order and would accept two bedrooms, but three would be our ideal.

"The problem is that it makes sense to move to north London and we really like the livelier parts of it such as Islington, which has great nightlife, shops, restaurants and is where Darren's girlfriend lives, but prices in both of these areas do seem exceedingly high. We obviously need an area with plenty of nightlife and a good public transport system so that our journey time to work doesn't cut into our free time too much."

THE ADVICE

Simon Marks replies: "Guy and Darren's difficulties arise because they are looking in the wrong area. No matter how one tries, if you choose an area where the prices are substantially higher than your budget, you are inevitably going to be disappointed. So they need to choose the nearest area to their first choice and consider its attributes plus value for money, property-wise.

"Guy mentions Islington and Muswell Hill, which are sought-after areas but have notoriously high property prices. Nearby Wood Green can give them everything they want, however, together with an investment property within their price range. Recently an increasing number of buyers, particularly first-time buyers, have moved away from the higher-bracket areas into those which are moving up, making them perfect investment properties for the future. Many buyers are now priced out of Camden Town, Crouch End and Finsbury Park, but Wood Green offers reasonable property prices, good nightlife and easy access to the City and central London.

"There are buses to London, and the Piccadilly line takes commuters directly into the West End. Life in Wood Green, too, is cosmopolitan. There is an excellent shopping centre, large supermarkets, numerous takeaways, which the lads may find extremely useful, plus a wide choice of restaurants, cafes, bars and nightclubs.

"Properties in Wood Green start from as little as £145,000 for a one-bedroom conversion apartment up to around £250,000 for a three-bedroom terraced house, which would be perfect for them to rent out the third bedroom. Renting out rooms is a good way to receive a regular income - they can fetch £100 per week - and investors often buy houses with a view to renting out the rooms individually for bigger returns.

"Guy and Darren need to find a reputable agent who has the time and expertise to advise on investment potential and rental return. The agent will then be able to discuss with their financial adviser the best way of raising the deposit, the amount that can be raised and the lowest interest rate they can achieve. They should look at buying this property as an extension of their income. They are probably good at negotiating a pay rise at work but buying the right property at the right price can be just as an effective way of earning income."

THE SOLUTION

Property one: Northcott Ave, Wood Green.

Price: £147,000.

Agent: Douglas Allen Spiro: 020-8365 7222.

Agent's details: First-floor investment flat with one bedroom and one reception, kitchen and bathroom. It is situated in a cul de sac and there is good access to local facilities. The property is in average decorative condition and is being sold freehold.

Property two: Forfar Rd, Wood Green.

Price: £245,000.

Agent: Winkworth, 020-8808 9200; www.winkworth.co.uk.

Agent's details: Well-maintained three-bedroom, two-reception Thirties-built family house. The property offers ideal accommodation and is presented for sale in good decorative order. It is situated on the popular Scotch Estate and is within easy reach of Wood Green underground station, on the Piccadilly Line. It is offered chain-free.

Property three: Russell Ave, Wood Green.

Price: £249,950.

Agent: Douglas Allen Spiro, 020-8365 7222.

Agent's details: This is an immaculately presented three-bedroom house with a large reception room and luxury fitted kitchen. There is a separate guest WC and 30ft garden. The house is in the sought-after Noel Estate and is close to Turnpike Lane and Wood Green Tube stations. It is freehold.

Simon Marks heads Douglas Allen Spiro's Wood Green branch: 020-8365 7222; www.douglasallenspiro.co.uk

THE VERDICT

"Wood Green sounds like the right sort of place for us and I agree that we should turn our attention to this part of London to find something we like. The idea of owning a house appeals although there should be little or no work required, or it would defeat the object of buying. An area that has plenty of things to do day and night is very much what we would like and not having to trek into London every night would be ideal. We were astounded that rooms fetch so much per week. It would be extremely helpful to be able to realise £400 per month for renting the extra room, should we decide on a three-bedroom house."

If you would like House Hunter's help, write to House Hunter, The Independent, 191 Marsh Wall, London E14 9RS, or e-mail with full details: househunter@independent.co.uk

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