Is it a good idea to buy into an up-and-coming area? Many people's budgets mean they can't afford to live in their desired location, so are left to choose between buying a run-down property in a good locale or taking a chance on an up-and-coming area.

It's worth considering that not all up-and-coming areas make it, and if they do, it could take 10 years before high streets shape up, crime is cut and schools improve. Our advice is, if you can, buy a worse property in a better neighbourhood. An established area will hold its value far better in any downturn and is not such a risky investment.

But if the idea of weeding out the latest hotspot turns you on, or if you can't afford to buy the space you need in a pricey locale, you need some sensible advice.

The ripple effect
An area surrounded by other nice areas can fare well from a ripple effect, Nunhead is a good example. Within walking distance of East Dulwich, Honor Oak and Telegraph Hill, Nunhead has proved its worth as young professionals and families have steadily bought into the area over the last 5-8 years. Currently, you'll pay between 100-150k less for a similar property in Nunhead compared to its surrounding areas, yet can access all of the superb amenities the better areas offer. Nunhead's high street has several good independent shops already and close to £1 million in funding to redevelop the area.

Crofton Park is looking quite interesting at the moment. A quick search returns 15, 3-bed houses listed for sale on Rightmove, with asking prices below London's average of £388k. Directly between up-and-coming Brockley and totally trendy Honor Oak, Crofton Park already has good train links and is close to Lewisham town centre - itself due to be redeveloped over the next 15 years. Which brings us nicely on to...

All we can say is Bellenden Road in Peckham (small scale) and Elephant & Castle (large scale). When I lived on Bellenden Road, it was cheap and grotty. Now it's annoyingly called Bellenden Village (must have been an estate agent), has some brilliant shops, looks very pretty and is most desirable. Several years ago Southwark Council awarded Bellenden Road businesses small grants to tidy up their shop frontage. Artists and designers Tom Philips, Zandra Rhodes and Anthony Gormley (his studio was here when he lived locally on Talfourd Road), designed new street lights, mosaics and bollards at the beginning of the area's transformation.

Check planning applications on local council websites, or find out about future town centre redevelopment plans, but be prepared to wait. Elephant & Castle are in the throws of spending £1.5 billion at a huge regeneration scheme, and it WILL be fabulous, but not for a long time. Once its infamous estates are destoyed, better housing provided, the town centre pedestrianised, green spaces added, transport improved - then it will be a better place to live. Development work just started, if you invest now you're looking at a healthy return here in 15-20 years' time.

Transport and migration
Most people know that improving transport service has a postive effect on house prices. Since tube services came to Honor Oak, Forest Hill and Brockley, the areas have further flourished. They now link to the best parts of east London (über trendy Shoreditch, Hoxton and Dalston) and Canada Water. Since this happened, this office is taking regular enquiries from people in Islington, Hackney and Shoreditch who are looking to move down here. They tend to be older professionals or new families who are after better schools, greener surroundings, good amenities but ultimately more value for their money. Peckham Rye station gets the same East London Line tube service this summer, and this will hopefully help the Nunhead-side of Peckham (Brayard's Road area), gain in popularity.

Local businesses and institutions
Hospitals, universities, shopping centres and factories need employees, while universities need students. They all need somewhere to live, so buying a buy-to-let near Kings College Hospital is a good idea. This institution has cemented much of Camberwell's local business growth, from bistros, cafes, taxi offices and supermarkets, who all gain custom from employees, visitors and students of Kings'. If you move near an institution like this, your home will resell more easily as the area will likely remain in demand.

The new deli effect
This is an estate agent's cliché, but it's hard to miss the arrival of a cool new gastro pub or amazing deli. Look for several new independents in an area that are thriving with strong community support. An online search can give you some idea, and a few visits should clarify if they're busy.

New shops can disappear as fast as they spring up, so you're hedging bets on what you think will survive. The Antic pub chain have refurbished gastro pubs in Crofton Park and Forest Hill recently. Look out for companies investing into an area, particularly companies that strike a chord with you. But if Waitrose move onto your high street, you missed the 'reasonable house price' window a long time ago.