I have had lots of great advice here about areas of East/SE London before, but I'm afraid there's now a new twist in our increasingly baroque househunt.
If we decided we wanted to live somewhere more central (I mean like Bethnal Green, Rotherhithe kind of distance out) we'd probably have to go for an ex-local authority flat in a low-rise block to get the size place we'd want.
I wouldn't think twice about buying an ex-local house freehold but are flats a bit different? I know the freeholder will be the council/housing association and there are horror stories about being stuck with huge bills when they do works on the building. Also there are ground rent/service charges etc as with all flats, and that leases will generally be under 125 years.
I lived in an ex LA flat for a while, renting from the people who'd bought it. The thing I particularly liked was that the heating was included in the rent, and come winter it was on 24 hrs a day, so we could just turn radiators off if it was too hot, but didn't have to worry about the effect on the bills when it was cold.
Mind you, I'd moved from an HA flat with no heating at all, where I went out for walks periodically throughout the evenings in order to feel warmish when I came in!
I bought an ex LA flat in Islington 10 yrs ago. 0ne of our neighbours was a noisy b*****d but you can get that anywhere. Biggest problem was not the cost of repairs but the byzantine bureaucracy to get them done. It can be strength sapping just dealing with the layers of admin.
I'm currently in ex LA flat in Hackney. Can only say I've had positive experiences of living here. We're in a small block of 8 flats, everyone friendly and says hello, sometime stops for a chat etc. For a 2 bed flat we pay £85 leasehold/month ( but that also includes buildings insurance), its extremely cheap to heat. It's a great size, with excellent built in storage- much bigger and more spacious than any conversions I could find. Have been here for 5 years, had occasional niggles with council but nothing too bad. I did move in after double glazed windows were fitted though and heard from neighbours that was expensive. Maybe check out if they've been done when you look at places.
Thank you everyone - this is really helpful. Am pleased there don't seem to be any big things I've not thought of.
I think I have read about the heating being included in the service charge (hence why it would be included in your rent). We are stingy jumper-wearers by instinct and obviously it would be wonderful terrible to be forced to be warm and comfortable all the time. So we'd have to think about that depending on what the service charge was.
Practically everywhere I've seen seems to have brand new windows, which is good! Think there must have been a lot of investment in East/SE London blocks over the last ten years or so.
DP is terrible at admin ("but why can't HMRC just do it my way?" ) and I am ok (though stressy) about it. Again, not enough to put me off by itself.