Balham is no longer a tube stop too far, attracting professionals and families with its green space and good transport links, finds Karen Tait
I was recently chatting to a friend who lives in Balham and her explanation of why she has stayed here so long is probably typical of many residents of this leafy south-west London district. ‘We’ve been here over 10 years and it’s changed so much,’ she says. ‘The high street used to be all charity shops, now there’s a Waitrose and lots of independent shops and cafés. The common is the best bit for us – even before we had kids – it’s so nice to have lots of green space and still be close to town. Lots of pubs and restaurants too, we rarely go up to town as there’s plenty of decent places here.’
Balham has indeed been transformed in recent years, and with the trendy delis, boutiques and bars have come affluent middle class residents. Or was it the other way round?
The relaxed atmosphere is a refreshing contrast with the hustle and bustle of central London. That said, if you want to head that way for work or pleasure, the West End and City are only 15-20 minutes away on the Northern Line or overground line to Victoria.
Balham also offers a taste of the country, with its location ‘between the commons’ – Clapham, Wandsworth and Tooting – attracting young and old.
This is an area where you can ‘grow’ – from young professionals enjoying the lively nightlife to families taking advantage of the friendly vibe and good schools. It also benefits from Wandsworth’s low rate of council tax.
Add into the mix a wealth of attractive Victorian and Edwardian terraced homes and it’s easy to see why people want to live here – and why prices are rising. The most exclusive area is the ‘Nightingale Triangle’, between the high street and Balham’s Nightingale Lane, in particular Nightingale Square with its communal gardens. Even here prices compare favourably with central London though.
Along with the period terraces, there are plenty of converted and purpose-built apartments, including the Art Deco Du Cane Court. More affordable flats can be found in central Balham and Bedford Hill.
Alistair Hilton of John D. Wood explains that outside of the Nightingale Triangle ‘the Heaver Conservation Area is very popular, especially streets like Streathbourne Road, Veronica Road, Terrapin Road and Huron Road. The Hyde Farm Estate is also highly rated.’
Indeed, the Hyde Farm Estate is ‘one of the finest in south-west London,’ says Christopher Cady of Jacksons, adding that ‘this popular grid of 12 roads offers a range of homes catering for first-time buyers to family homes.’
Paul Herring of Kinleigh Folkard & Hayward also points to the increasing popularity of these estates. ‘At Hyde Farm, houses are in particular demand with many going to sealed bids and selling in the region of £925,000, whereas last year they were broadly achieving close to £850,000,’ he says, while in the the Heaver Estate, ‘flats are highly sought after with good quality one and two-beds in demand.’
The Balham market is driven by two groups, says Toby Turnage of Douglas & Gordon: families and first-time buyers. ‘For first-time buyers, the key drivers are prices and the Northern Line. You can expect to pay £600/sq ft for a two-bedroom garden flat, but we have seen prices reach over £800/sq ft – buyers are willing to pay for the right property.’
On the lettings side, Will Brindley of KFH, observes that a wider choice of properties means tenants are ‘placing a greater emphasis on the exact location of the property and its relation to local transport and amenities.
TYPICAL SALE PRICES: everything from studios for £100,000 and garden flats for £300,000 to large family homes for over £1 million
TYPICAL RENTS: studio flats from £140pw, £1,400 for two/three-bed flats, £2,000pw for a house
WHO BUYS/RENTS HERE: families attracted by the green spaces and schools, and young professionals seeking easy access, nightlife and affordable property