In the second of a special series leading up to this Friday's launch of The Birmingham Post's new property magazine, Emma Pinch looks at three up-and-coming postcodes in Birmingham - Hall Green, a neglected part of Edgbaston and Longbridge

It's a staple topic at dinner parties and its mention guarantees either a rueful groan or a warm tingle of satisfaction.

The relentless rise in property prices means little to the average homeowner if every-where else has rocketed at the same rate.

But there are some winners - those lucky punters who invested their money in an up-an-coming area. Bought for next to nothing, sold for a fat profit.

While such buyers no doubt find limitless fodder in their purchase for fond reflections on the razor-sharp qualities of their business acumen, the professional developer will admit that little short of a crystal ball can predict which next backwater will be magically transformed to des res hotspot.

Birmingham has seen a few of these.

Harborne, for example, though always highly thought of, has been a runaway success over the last ten years, thanks to its proximity to Edgbaston. More recently, prices in Bear-wood have doubled over the last five years for its proximity to Harborne. A typical property there has rocketed from #80,000 to #140,000.

So where does the canny money go now?

In cities like Birmingham, packed to the gills with new 'luxury' flats and apartments, the major shortage is affordable, sturdily constructed, family homes.

"The highest growth is coming in areas where there's the right type of property, said Yolande Barnes, at Savills.

"Good, high quality housing is just not being made any more - the Victorian or Edwardian homes with big gardens.

"It is in short supply because older families with no children at home tend to stay in them. There is a much lower turnover in that part of the market. And despite the exploding single person households which are projected, it doesn't follow that the single person wants to live in a one-bedroom flat."

In a growing economy like Birmingham, where the number of wealthy families is on the rise, but who find places like Harborne too expensive to set up home, then down-at-heel areas were sure to come up in value, she said.

'Pioneers' - usually young couples - move in to take advantage of solid, spacious properties at lower prices, thereby 'gentrifying' an area.

"These are areas which are basically failing but have very good stock and the price disparity between similar houses in other areas is great enough for them to give it a try," said Ms Barnes. "The areas which then really take off are when the pioneers stay put and start having children." Ironically it is the arrival of private nursery or private primary schools which herald the 'arrival' of an area - they usually come before state primary schools start to improve.

And it is schooling which is the crucial factor in any area's lasting success.

If the up-and-coming hotspot's schools don't improve, that's where the downward trend can start. Keeping an eye on the Ofsted tables to see if there is an improving school in a cheaper area and an eye on major investment on infrastructure is also a good idea. A good example is the arrival of a hospital - it creates an immediate professional class living within its proximity.

Public and private regeneration schemes have to be examined for their staying power, as do new builds, said Ms Barnes.

"There are a lot of regeneration schemes which don't work - just because a lot of money is put in doesn't guarantee it will work if it is not a long-term plan. The biggest winners from Brindleyplace were not the development company who did it, Argent, but the land owners and those alongside it because the regeneration was so effective the area round it came up as well. Ditto new developments created from scratch on brownfield sites. If you've got a standard estate with lots of cul-de-sacs running off into nowhere and it is not accessible to anything, that could be a misnomer."

How to spot if an area is on the up and up

* Growing numbers of estate agents, looking to cash in on likely growth n Aggressive advertising such as fliers - it means they are confident they will be able to sell or let your property n Smaller landlords start to split large homes into flats, hordes of For Sale boards lining the streets

* A skyline of industrial scaffolding and cranes, and in particular whether petrol stations are being replaced with new-build apartments as this means developers are confident rents can be set high