No one wants to be the runt of the litter, but that is exactly what Balham was historically, sandwiched as it is between the Chelsea-aspirant hordes of Battersea and Clapham.
“In the past Balham could have been described as the ugly sister of Battersea and Clapham,” says Hamish Scott, branch manager of Hamptons International estate agents in Balham, “and buyers were encouraged to move to Balham because it was a fair bit cheaper, yet still offered great transport links.”
Zip forward a few years later and the ugly ducking has turned into a swan. This is down to a number of factors – affordability being one of them – but also the promise of new transport infrastructure. Crossrail Two’s newly proposed route has the high speed service running through Balham instead of Tooting Broadway. “This will connect north to south infinitely faster and will have a huge effect over the next 10 years on property prices,” says Tom Crosthwaite from SellMyHome.co.uk.
It’s also far buzzier an area than it used to be, with gastropubs, and upmarket chains like Foxlow and Franca Manca moving nearby. This is partly a consequence of a changing, younger demographic waking up to Balham’s charms.
People no longer move to Balham because it’s better value for money, they move because it is a great place to live
“This characterful period housing stock was home to the original City based professionals and more recently, younger affluent buyers have chosen to lay down roots in SW12,” says Savills research analyst Frances Clacy.
“Indeed in the last two years, around two thirds of Savills buyers in SW12 have been between the ages of 30 and 39. Initially drawn to the area for its value compared to nearby Clapham, Balham’s popularity has seen house prices rise nearly 70 per cent in the last 10 years, outperforming that of the wider Wandsworth borough.”
Savills data using Land Registry figures puts the average second hand sale at around £800,000, a good £50,000 about the borough average and just over £200,000 above the London average second hand sale price.
It wasn’t until the railways arrived in the mid-1800s that housing first came to Balham, notably with Heaver estate – a grid of red brick houses – by local developer Alfred Heaver. Today, it sits in a conservation area and is one of the most popular places to live in the area.
“A real focal point of the area has become Hildreth Street which has been transformed into a 'mini Northcote Road' with smart cafes, wine tasting shops and patisseries lining the pedestrianized street,” says Scott from Hamptons.
The Victorians added lines detached and terraced houses along the High Road and Nightingale Lane, and many of these, along with the two and three bedroom maisonettes are attractive to young families.
If you’re looking for gardens, the south side of Old Devonshire Road is a good place to look, says Crosthwaite, with some over 100ft long, while grand 19th century houses can also be found on Hendrick Avenue, which has “recorded the highest average sale prices over the last decade,” according to Clacy.
“The Hyde Farm Estate is one of the most sought after districts in Balham due to its two Ofsted rated Outstanding schools and close proximity to the green spaces of Tooting Bec Common,” says Edward Burchett, from Jacksons Balham. For a terrace, you’re looking at just over £1m; for a semi-detached upgrade, around £1.5m; and for a flat, be prepared to pay around £600,000.
“People no longer move to Balham because it’s better value for money, they move because it is a great place to live,” says Scott from Hamptons International.
Pick up some beautiful spring blooms at Hildreth Street Market, a market that’s been around since the turn of the century. Fruit, veg and household goods can also be picked up, and a spaghetti bar, a tapas bar and a number of delis have also popped up recently. More akin to a banqueting hall than a leisure centre, Balham Swimming Pool is up there with London’s best lidos. It may not be outdoors, but it’s set in a high vaulted ceiling with lots of natural light streaming in. M1lk is the hot new place to go for brunch, doubling in size since its refurbishment in 2015. Try its upmarket version of a fillet o fish or the orange natural wine. Enjoy the vintage vibes at the Lost and Found Bar, on Bedford Hill, which has craft cocktails served up in generous happy hours. The Bedford pub, also on the Hill, is a great live music and comedy venue and is much loved for good reason. Spread across three floors, expect food, drink, club nights, sports screenings, and family events as well.
House prices Source: Zoopla
Transport Source: TfL
Time to Canary Wharf: 30 mins
Time to Bank: 20 mins
Nearest train station: Balham
Best roads Source: Hamptons International
Most Expensive: Granard Road: £2,553,030
Best Value: Balham Hill: £485,330