The Going Rate: The brink of country living

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Southgate is just about as far north as you can get out of London before hitting the green belt, so it attracts people who want one foot in the country and another in the city. First-time buyers are thin on the ground. This is mid-management, mid-life territory, where buyers note the number of Tube stations, parks and good schools.

'But there are also a large number of elderly owners who have lived here all their lives,' says Chris Rash of surveyors Rash & Rash. Apparently, once they arrive, few leave.

For some it is not by choice, as values have fallen 30 per cent since the boom. A three-bed terrace cottage in New Southgate dropped almost pounds 10,000 over four months, to sell for pounds 60,000, while a purpose-built maisonette fell only slightly less, to pounds 61,000, over a year. A three-bed terrace house situated in Hampden Way came down pounds 16,000 to go for pounds 76,000 in 15 months.

Some sales are quicker: a four- bed detached in Chase Side took three months to find a buyer, although the price had to be reduced by pounds 15,000 to pounds 185,000.

One advantage of the cuts, however, is that buyers are now being attracted from the surrounding areas, which are now looking rather expensive.

SWINDON became fat on companies moving out of the crowded South-east during the boom and is still welcoming newcomers such as National Power and Nationwide. Home owners welcomed the swarm of new buyers, pockets stuffed with cash from relocation packages.

'But they are no easy touch,' warns Greg Pullen of the long-established surveyors Dreweatt Neate. With their own homes sold and so much property on the market, the newcomers can afford to haggle.

Earlier movers who bid up the market are now suffering from a one-third drop in values, although Mr Pullen says deals can be relatively quick because his firm insists on realistic asking levels.

For example, a four-bed semi in The Mall went in two weeks for pounds 95,000 - a drop of pounds 2,500 - while a four-bed detached in the suburb of Okus took only 11 days, dropping pounds 3,500 to pounds 87,500. A studio flat in The Heights spent three weeks on the market, falling pounds 1,500 to pounds 37,500.

A three-bed semi in Marlborough Road took longer, around four months, but still only dropped pounds 3,000 to pounds 92,000, while a four-bed detached backing on to the golf course in Leverton Gate fell pounds 5,000 to pounds 225,000 in the same period. Where a price is wrong, however, such as a five-bed Thirties home in central Swindon set at pounds 147,000, things are more sluggish. This property was reduced to pounds 138,000 after three months and sold in six weeks for pounds 131,000.