The days when London's Zone 1 got all the property action are long gone. Evolving out of a series of interconnecting villages, the UK's Capital is home to many pockets and enclaves that are worth investigating as much for their architectural richness as for their convenient transport links.
When looking at the London property map, it's handy to divide it into seven sections, each possessing unique histories and advantages from an investment perspective.
Containing some of the most prestigious addresses on the face of the planet, areas like Mayfair, Belgravia and Knightsbridge almost need no introduction. They are permanently recession proof, handily situated next to the West End shopping hub and beautifully preserved. Elegant stucco mansions and imposing Victorian terraces are arranged around garden squares with mews cottages being tucked away along cobblestoned streets.
New property developments such as One Hyde Park and The Knightsbridge are often the stuff of fantasy, combining stunning views with the most luxurious amenities money can buy. It's needless to say that property values reflect the exclusive nature of these neighbourhoods, but with demand still outstripping supply, prices are set to keep on rising.
Plenty of refurbishment money has poured into central London over the last twenty years with many converted period apartments now offered in pristine condition. Many international renters prefer this type of accommodation because of the historical value attached but there is still on-going demand for high quality new build homes for an ever increasing corporate workforce of younger adults and couples flocking to London to work on secondment for 2 – 4 years.
When the disease and squalor of Georgian London started to become unmanageable, the enlightened classes made their way North. Islington and Highgate still retain a certain intellectual and artistic feel. Highgate's lofty vantage point, in particular, must provide endless inspiration to poets and painters as the views encompass the whole of the City and West End. Georgian townhouses preserved as single residences can still be obtained in the area and its location at the beginning of Zone 3 means that relative value is possible especially when you compare to prices in Zone 1 which is just 4 miles away.
Hampstead is the perennial favourite in this part of the Capital and remains so because of its irresistible combination of panoramic views and architectural flair. Massive Victorian houses, some built in an almost defiant Neo-Gothic style, stand side-by-side with ancient churches and historic stately homes. Many famous people choose to settle here and can be seen jogging in the open spaces of Hampstead Heath or taking in coffee in one of the High Street's many chic cafes. Most apartments are converted Victorian and Georgian houses and you would be hard pressed to find a 1 bed for under £600k.
Neighbouring West Hampstead has a more practical feel which attracts young families while St John's Wood and Maida Vale are both nearer to Central London and offer large townhouses for those who want more space and have the budget. These uniformly prosperous and desirable areas are also handily placed near the M1 motorway which makes them ideal for quick weekend getaways to the countryside. Slightly further out is Beaufort Park, a modern property development in Colindale (Tube Zone 4) is the nearest to this main arterial road. This development remains popular with investors achieving steady rental yields of 5-6% in 2014 and 2015.
Starting at Chelsea and stretching down the Thames to Richmond, the suburbs of West London provide idyllic riverside settings that wouldn't seem out of place in the British countryside. It's along the Thames path that developers have ingeniously blended new buildings with quaint pubs and historic bridges. Landmark property developments such as Imperial Wharf overlooking the river in Fulham; Fulham Reach at Hammersmith and St George's Kew Bridge scheme have all revitalised the landscape while creating brand new communities. Further inland, the green spaces of Ealing and Chiswick are ideal for young families and with new property developments popping up here too, most notably being the Dickens Yard scheme where investors have seen record sales growth since buying in the first phase which launched in 2012.
When Shakespeare needed to escape the attention of the authorities, he crossed the river thus establishing the South Bank as a haven for artists and thinkers. The reconstructed Globe Theatre pays homage to the region's creative roots, as does the Tate Modern and the London Eye as South London seeks to build a skyline to match its Northern neighbour. Regeneration is a big deal along the shoreline as Greenwich, Bermondsey and Vauxhall all smarten up by adding new developments and improved transport links to their traditional mix of Victorian houses and riverside warehouse conversions. Adjacent areas like Clapham, Lewisham, Deptford and Tooting are also feeling the benefits of the new energy that is spreading south.
Bank, Monument and St Paul's are all names that conjure up impressions of permanence and stability which befits an area that is small in size, yet hugely influential. The Square Mile is London's financial heart and wasn't always an obvious place to live in as it tended to be bereft of life at the weekend, but this has all changed. Glitzy restaurants, plush high-rise apartments and the rise of fringe areas like Aldgate has made the area ideal for corporate workers who desire to be at the very centre of things, be they commercial or cultural. Demand for high quality accommodation means that many historic buildings have been imaginatively and lucratively converted into luxurious apartments. Brand new developments such as Altitude, Cityscape and The Heron Building make up for their lack of history by combining great amenities with stunning skyline views.
Always industrious, East London has now added a cutting-edge glamour to its entrepreneurial spirit. Famous for resisting enemy bombs and launching the ships that established an empire, the East End of today is bursting with tech start-ups, galleries, artisan breweries and all manner of initiatives. The converted factories and warehouses of Shoreditch, Hoxton and Wapping are a hipster's paradise as young creative execs take advantage of the space and proximity to the city centre. Properties at the London Dock development in Wapping E1W will be one to watch as some investors who bought first phase off plan here have already seen their apartment prices grow £100k in one year.
The Docklands regeneration phenomenon in E14 shows no signs of easing up. Corporate individuals working in and around Canary Wharf have dispensed with the traditional commute, opting instead for the high-rise luxury of developments like Pan Peninsula, Baltimore Dock, The Landmark and South Quay Plaza.
The streets of London may not be paved with gold, but with property values increasing steadily across the board, the bricks and mortar of this great metropolis seem to be a better long-term bet than a roomful of bullion.