Help with Hackney!
February 1, 2015 9:22 AM   Subscribe

We're thinking of biting a bullet and buying a place in/around Hackney in London. Help?

After a lot of consideration, we're thinking of buying a two-bedroom flat in/around Hackney in London. But where? We've looked at a bunch of places, and we're gripped with indecision. The down payment is from an unexpected inheritance (I know, very, very lucky) and we would like to invest well since neither of us makes a ton of money and could in no way get on the property ladder without it. I want to make an informed decision. We're fairly committed to living in and around Hackney to be close to family who lives nearby, and because we like it. Maybe later we'll move further out to lovelier pastures, but not yet.

Us: Couple with a toddler and another baby in the works. We're flexible work-types, so commuting isn't a big deal, but we don't want to be stranded in no-man's land. AND we want potential renters/future buyers to not be put off by bad transport. Our main pull is between areas that are already developed with lots of shops/things for kids (re: gentrified, ugh ugh, hate that word) and more up and coming places that are quieter and closer to transport. Schools matter to us too -- it doesn't have to be THE BEST SCHOOL EVER, but, yeah, I want my kids to go to good state primary schools.

Right now we're choosing between Stoke Newington, Finsbury Park (area between Finsbury Park and Clissold Park, kind of towards Highbury), Haringey Ladder (ok not Hackney), and Victoria Park. We like London Fields, but honestly can't seem to find anywhere affordable. We REALLY want a garden so that is what's restricting us in part price-wise. And with the kids, I'd like lots of nice things to do for them and some green space. (I grew up in a farming community and am kind of sad I can't give the same thing for my kids -- so, a park is the closest we'll get.)

ALSO, and IMPORTANTLY, we will probably have to rent the place frequently (most summers, when we go away for work, for example, and possibly when we have to live abroad for a year or two or maybe when we move out of London.) Where would we get best value for renters?

Does anyone have any thoughts about the wisdom of buying in these places? We love Stoke Newington, but we get less for our money, and are wondering whether prices are just too high for what it is. We also really like the area around Finsbury Park (towards Highbury/Clissold Park -- not Stroud Green side) -- it's definitely less "gentrified" but it too seems like it's getting pricey -- but then again, it just seems like a good bet in the long run with the work being done on the station. And Blackstock Road seems friendly and bustling and there are a couple of decent schools nearby.

Haringey Ladder is an outside option -- lovely flats, but we just don't know that Green Lanes area that well. And same for Victoria Park -- love it around Lauriston, but seems VERY expensive for what you get.

We really feel confused and gripped by indecision as prices seem to go up and up (maybe a bubble? Another worry, aargh, comments on this welcome.). We'd love any thoughts from people who know these areas, and anything we should be thinking about but probably aren't!
posted by caoimhe to Home & Garden (8 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: Oh, sorry, have also looked at a few places in Clapton around Chatsworth Road!
posted by caoimhe at 9:33 AM on February 1, 2015

I loved living near Green Lanes but it is an acquired taste. If your taste is "killer Turkish food and a thousand faintly mysterious barbershops" then it's for you. I have no idea what the property market is doing though. Also - the Victoria line puts all other tube lines to shame. A blessing
posted by liliillliil at 10:02 AM on February 1, 2015

I have never been to Hackney and , except for Heathrow, only once to London. But I do read UK papers ( Telegraph/Guardian ) daily. You may well have seen this information. The thing about bubbles in London and South East is that they just seem to get bigger and bigger and become the norm. The "bubble" in Hackney seems to have a very slow leak but I would guess that is temporary. Could be a good time to buy if you see yourself making a long term commitment( at least 5+ years) or turning it into an income property if you move. At those prices, and the increases in the last 15 years, I would hope when you do move it will be with the luxury of not feeling pressed to sell immediately. Can not help re: any of the local information. Wishing you well on what I know is a scary undertaking.
posted by rmhsinc at 10:38 AM on February 1, 2015

London Fields hits all your desired points but that's why it's so insanely expensive, ie your criteria is pretty much bang on for what every other person looking in those areas is after. It might be easier to advise if you can outline your price bracket.
posted by freya_lamb at 10:42 AM on February 1, 2015

Response by poster: Ah yes, price. For a two bed with a garden, we're looking at places between 500 and 700k (a lot, I know, but it doesn't seem like it when we're out looking), but the top end of that is a bit of a stretch for us (and we can't go over that, really.) It's the garden part that seems to sink the budget.
posted by caoimhe at 11:08 AM on February 1, 2015

I don't live in London, but I spend a fair bit of time in the Stamford Hill area which is easy walking distance to both Finsbury Park and Stoke Newington. I think those are both really nice areas, and Stoke Newington in particular would, I think, be an attractive summer rental.

As for buying and bubbles... I dunno. I honestly wouldn't get too hung up on this. With the housing situation being what it is in London, I think if you have the means to buy, you should just bite the bullet and buy. I keep hearing that the bubble is going to burst, but who knows--and when? I do know some people who bought a house in Croydon (a far less desirable area than the places you're looking at!) during a previous bubble and got stuck with it for a while, but eventually prices started climbing again and it seems like they're going to be able to sell it in the next year or so. If it happens, I think it's something you can wait out. This is particularly true if you're planning on buying a place that you will be in for a good while. But that's just my not-especially-informed opinion/gut instinct/what I would do in your situation.
posted by tiger tiger at 12:46 PM on February 1, 2015 [1 favorite]

I kicked around Green Lanes and Stoke Newington for about a year. It's an interesting area. Lots of it feels quiet and suburban but there are pockets of underground hipster and pockets of rather bleak urban grit. For what it's worth as someone who was new to London, which might be useful for a renter's perspective, I much preferred being in the Clissold Park / Stoke Newington areas, just as places to spend time in. I think because they are an older part of the city, there is history there which can make one feel connected to the city. Finsbury Park around the station (Blackstock Road) had good energy as well, very connected to the city due to the fast Victoria Line, but there you feel the grind of the rat race much more than you do towards Clissold Park. I am told that was a really rough area not long ago and that still echoes.

Green Lanes is not without its history, but as a home neighborhood I found it vaguely dissatisfying - the McDonald's and big box mall didn't help - and leaves one feeling like London is mainly happening somewhere else. You sort of walk the strip and that's it; not the sort of place you can get lost exploring. Also when you get way up Green Lanes it is quite a hoof to the tube. And it is farther from Dalston and Hackney and everything interesting. I guess this is a personal preference thing, balancing location for what you can get for your money, but for me the energy and vibe of an area has a lot of influence over my well-being when considering places to live, and in this part of the city there can be stark differences between relatively close areas.
posted by PercussivePaul at 5:29 PM on February 1, 2015 [1 favorite]

My daughter rents in Stoke Newington, really at a point equidistant from Stoke Newington, Clapton and Rectory Road stations and loves it, and so do I when I visit. Stoke Newington High Street is ground zero for excellent Turkish food, Church Street is more boutiquey. Clissold Park has two resident giant goats.

The 106 bus is your friend. I spent a long time working out the best way to get to hers from central London, and found that it's definitely Victoria line to Finsbury Park then 106 almost to her door, though I sometimes use the slower but just as convenient 73 to go all the way from Euston. The 106 also takes you straight to the fun bits of Hackney proper and London Fields. A Zillion bus routes go to Dalston. Upcoming transport improvements include the takeover of the relevant Liverpool Street services by TfL, which may result in higher frequencies, and less definitely Crossrail2.
posted by gdav at 10:41 AM on February 2, 2015

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