Thursday, August 15, 2013

5 signs tell you that you are in the right neighbourhood in London

How to tell a good London neighbourhood
Choosing a right neighbourhood is never easy (photo by Peter Morgan)

London with its myriad of nooks and crannies is bewildering to the newcomer. If you are looking for a place to settle down, you can head to my Moving to London guides section. But more information never hurts, does it?

Now that you have done your readings and you are all prepped to meet the agent who promised to bring you to some of the properties that are "just right for you", what are some of the tell tale signs that a neighbourhood is decent one? Here are five quick and dirty ways.

Waitrose

It is a well known fact that home prices will jump when a Waitrose opens near it. This supermarket chain that caters to the well heeled and increasingly working class professionals offers good quality food with a smile. Food there is fresher too. Try this, grab a like for like item from Waitrose and any other supermarket with the same expiry date (I tried the test with chicken breasts) and you'll see Waitrose' will outlast the rest by at least one to two days.

Ask a Waitrose staff where an item is and he will bring you right to the shelf itself. If he doesn't know where it is, he will make sure he finds out. None of the other supermarkets offer the same level of service.

Butcher and fishmonger

Supermarkets aside, you know that the neighbourhood has a small town fuzzy feel when there is a dedicated butcher or even better a fishmonger as well.

None of the impersonal self checkout counters over here. Instead, have a chat with the butcher who would advise you on what to get and how to prepare that sirloin steak. Need some lobsters for dinner? Get to know the fishmonger and he will make sure he gets you the first pick at Billingsgate Market when there is a fresh catch.

Supermarkets just can't match this. Not even Waitrose.

Lifestyle cafes

First come the diners and workers cafes, then come the independent cafes that offer £2.80 cappuccinos and 30p babycinos. It's a tricky affair from there on for it can morph into the likes of Nero and Costa cafes that are nice to have but rather colourless. The emphasis here is "lifestyle", not cafes.

Or you can have lifestyle cafes - cafes that serve free range organic bites and stock ridiculously expensive ornaments and furniture on the side. It is as if anyone would pick up a £700 quilted armchair while having my expresso (oh yes, I'm talking about Pitfields). But still, they are certainly more colourful chill out places.

Savilles

There was a suggestion to impose an additional levy on betting shops to drive them out of the high streets. I'm sure most would have thought the same about property agencies as well. Once a place gets up and coming, the agencies will just take over the prime shop spaces. Irony is that they are hardly useful to locals and serve only those who are looking to move into the area.

But one thing is for sure - things are getting rosier when Savilles move into the neighbourhood. They generally deal with higher worth properties in more desirable vicinities. And if your area is deemed worthy, they might even throw in an international branch - those selling only overseas properties.

It is a thin line to tread with Savilles though. The last thing you want is for your neighbourhood to be one of those dead places where every other property is not owner occupied yet left empty. This can very well happen when foreign investors are sold the idea that the area is a good catch.

There is an entire section on property agents at my London Accommodation Guide.

Bugaboo buggies (or prams)

Nappy valley: where you see many babies and toddlers out in the open. Sometimes too many.

The reason why they are out and about (instead of being cooped up in nurseries) is chiefly because they are either looked after by a stay at home parent, au pars or (gasps!) nannies (See cost of childcare in London). The main mode of transport for the little screamers are of course buggies.

These buggies come with a wide range of price tags from the simple pusher that goes for under £100 to the premium Silver Cross that you see in Mary Poppins that goes for over £1000. The sweet spot, however, is the Bugaboo range. Starting from £400, it is the choice of many (working) middle class families. Boy, you want lots of those in your neighbourhood if you are thinking of raising kids. Having them around also indicates that there would be lots of children's activities in the area to entertain your kids during the weekdays.

Is there anything that I've missed? Also check out if you are moving to London section.

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