Property: Stepping Stones - One Woman's Property Story

CANDY SHERIDAN'S first buy was an unmodernised, Victorian terrace in east London's Forest Gate, which cost pounds 20,000 in 1983 when she was just 23. "I was desperate for a home. My parents lived abroad so I had no base," she says. The beautiful house included "feathered" wooden panelling: "It was an unbelievable find," remembers Candy, but in 1986, she and a boyfriend bought a flat near work in north London, so they let the house.

A year later, with a new partner, she bought out her ex-boyfriend who moved back into the Forest Gate house until its sale in 1988 for pounds 75,000. "It was bizarre, but he needed somewhere to go so he went back." Candy used pounds 40,000 of her profits to start her own company and in 1990, after having a daughter, "exchanged homes" with work colleagues: selling them her flat for pounds 75,000 and buying their three-bedroom maisonette in Camden for pounds 115,000.

In 1991, disaster struck. BCCI, where Candy banked, went bankrupt and with it her company, investment and entire savings. "We saw it on the news and immediately went to our branch to find it closed. They took all our money." Nine months after buying they had to sell their Camden flat to the first person who made an offer for pounds 124,000 to avoid repossession - despite their son's birth two weeks before completion.

They stayed with family until Candy found a job and somewhere to live. "I drove down the A1 and bought the first place I saw that was cheap enough." For pounds 75,000, she got three bedrooms in Barnet, but the move to suburbia was hard: "I missed London and it took a long time to acclimatise."

An idyllic holiday in Norfolk inspired the purchase of a weekend retreat - "Shangri-La", an unmodernised, 400-year-old thatched cottage with a quarter of an acre, bought at auction for pounds 35,000. "It was to cheer myself up after finding I'd get nothing back from the BCCI scandal. It was symbolic as it was exactly the amount I'd lost - what you'd call divine justice."

They lived in Barnet for six years, spending their holidays in Norfolk, but the threats of an ex-client of Candy's social worker partner drove them out: "It was a nightmare. He fire-bombed our car and tried to burn down our flat." They sold in 1997 for pounds 85,000 and got pounds 6,000 from Social Services to help move. It was a low point: "We were disillusioned with London life, property and jobs, and I'd just suffered my third redundancy in three years."

Their holiday home became permanent: "It was just what I needed - recuperation and a little bit of peace." Candy recently had another baby and this year paid pounds 65,000 for a granary store "sitting abreast a broad with four bedrooms, potential and plenty of boating" to rent out. She has no regrets about her moves and loves "Shangri-La", but the grand plan is to eventually sell both homes and buy somewhere with land to restore or build herself. She describes her story as "many moves and redundancies, three children and still hankering after a barn to convert".

Those moves in brief

1983 Bought Forest Gate house for pounds 20,000, sold in 1988 for pounds 75,000.

1985 Bought north London flat for pounds 58,000 (bought out ex at pounds 62,000), sold as part of exchange for pounds 75,000.

1990 Bought Camden house for pounds 115,000, sold for pounds 124,000 nine months later.

1991 Bought Barnet flat for pounds 75,000, sold for pounds 85,000 in 1997.

1991 Bought Norfolk cottage for pounds 35,000. Now worth pounds 80,000.

1999 Bought granary for pounds 65,000.

If you would like your moves to be featured write to: Nic Cicutti, Stepping Stones, One Canada Square, Canary Wharf, London E14 5DL. pounds 100 will be awarded for the best story printed by 31 June

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