Property: Stepping Stones One Woman's Property Story

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Jackie Davis has bought three properties since 1984. She now lives in Newport, South Wales, with husband Richard and daughter Mair.

JACKIE DAVIS entered the property market in 1984. Giving up her rented flat in Streatham, she and her boyfriend decided to buy a "cheap home together". They chose a turn-of-the-century, purpose-built flat in Thornton Heath.

The property was only the second they viewed but Jackie instinctively knew that it was right: "You just get a feeling, you like the character of a place." Jackie had considered more popular areas, such as Clapham and Streatham, but picked relatively obscure Thornton Heath precisely because "it wasn't up and coming" and would give value for money. pounds 27,000 bought a garden and two bedrooms instead of one and was within commuting distance from her work as a local government manager.

Jackie stayed in Thornton Heath long after her boyfriend had left. She lived elsewhere temporarily, renting out the flat to a friend, but returned after a year. Then she married Richard and Thornton Heath lost its appeal: "We decided we wanted to buy in a better area."

In 1994 they sold the flat for pounds 45,000, making a profit of pounds 18,000 - nowhere near as much as they might have made a few years earlier: "In 1988, at the height of the boom, [when] I extended my mortgage to do work on the flat, it was worth pounds 70,000."

Again she contemplated Clapham and Streatham but finally chose somewhere less urban: "We decided on Ewell, Surrey, which has good transport links into London and lovely tree-lined roads." They looked at many properties and settled on a semi-detached Thirties house with an enormous garden for pounds 95,000: "It was cheaper because the old lady wanted a quick sale, but it needed a new kitchen and decorating throughout."

Jackie and Richard had baby Mair and thought they would settle in Ewell but: "In the end we weren't there that long." Richard never really liked London and so, when his local government consultancy work became successful, he suggested moving to his native South Wales. Jackie was at first uncertain - "It's a bit more dramatic than just moving down the road," - but she agreed.

In 1997, they sold their Ewell house for pounds 130,000 and searched for a new home in Richard's birthplace, Newport, near his family. Were they surprised by property values? "Very," Jackie says. "You could buy a house like the one we sold for around pounds 60,000 but there wasn't much around."

Jackie and Richard originally wanted period property but bought a 1992- built detached four-bedroom house, which had been on the market for more than a year. They recently learned that their Ewell house was re-sold, a year later, for pounds 158,000. Agent Richard Crook, of Crook and Blight, estimates that the Newport home is now worth about pounds 150,000, while period homes have seen markedly higher increases. The less dramatic profit leaves Jackie unfazed: "You get so much more for your money here."

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1984 - bought Thornton Heath flat for pounds 27,000, sold for pounds 45,000 in 1994.

1994 - bought Ewell Thirties house for pounds 95,000, sold for pounds 130,000 in 1997.

1997 - bought Newport house for pounds 136,000. Now worth pounds 150,000.