Chances are if youíre reading this then you are looking to buy or rent in the area we operate in. By this, I mean the SE22, SE15, SE23, SE5, SE14 and SE4 postcodes. Estate agents, as mistrusted as they are (no violins please) have a responsibility to their clients to draw on an locationís positive traits. But it would be at the very least patronising (and at the very worst illegal) to pretend an area is something it truly isnít. With such a colossal amount of information available online, it's never been easier to find out about an area before you start viewing. Here are some pointers.

A really good way to find out what an area is like is to join an online community forum, and we have found southeastcentral.co.uk to be a brilliant resource. Itís free, quick and easy to register and topics include every local issue you could think of plus many community events/ideas being planned by its members. There are also forums at se23.com and eastdulwichforum.co.uk serving these specific areas ó each forum gives you a flavour of what it is like to live in a place. Obviously not all residents are part of online communities but itís a good place to begin your research.

One big concern for people, particularly if they are moving in from outside SE London, is crime. There have been 453 million hits on the police crime-mapping site since it launched a year ago, indicating plenty of active users. If you go to www.police.uk and type in a postcode, last monthís recorded crimes are revealed on an easy-to-read map. At www.met.police.uk you can see there were exactly 41.1 violent crimes per 1000 people in The Lane ward (more or less Rye lane and its immediate surroundings up to Peckham High Street) between Jan 2011 Ė Jan 2012, down 18.3% on the previous year.

A comprehensive area overview can be found at data.london.gov.uk. Here you see data on each areaís demographic enabling you to form a complete understanding of its residents. Ward boundaries are marked on top of a street map and information is held going back to the 2001 census for comparison. From this tool and a bit of O-level maths, we can gather that crime in Southwark was down 15.6% from 2008 Ė 2011. Mind you, itís probably unwise to stroll down Rye Lane brandishing the latest smartphone and a stuffed wallet, but that can be said of most places.

If youíre after information on schools then education.gov.uk or bbc.co.uk both display school league table results; ofsted.gov.uk hold detailed school inspection reports and tfl.gov.uk give all bus, train and tube routes.

We hope this is helpful, and if you need advice on what we consider the best up-and-coming areas, tips on where to eat and drink out and what itís like to live in south east London, feel free to ask as we all live here too.

Written by Jane Robathan