Property: Stepping Stones - One Woman's Property Story

MARY CHANCE (above) has bought four properties since 1970. She now lives in a two-bedroom mansion flat in Vauxhall, south London. Mary grew up in Devon and Herefordshire but in 1947, as soon as she was old enough, followed her mother's example: "After my father died she roared up to London and I did the same, starting life, as most do, in a bedsit."

In 1969, Mary was renting in a railway-owned building. After it was sold and she was "turned out", she decided to buy, and applied for a mortgage - which, for a single woman, wasn't easy: "I had to get a male guarantor. My father was dead and I had no brothers, so my boss did it."

Two properties she found were rejected by her building society as "not the sort we lend on" but her third attempt, a newly-converted one-bedroom flat near her mother in Bayswater, was successful and she paid pounds 5,650 in 1970.

She got a 20-year mortgage - they would only agree to an endowment for pounds 2,850 - and lived there for five years before selling for pounds 10,000. She then moved to South Kensington, where she bought a larger one-bedroom top floor flat on an 80-year lease for pounds 16,000.

This flat was "most attractive but still very tiny", and had 72 tortuous steps up, but no lift. Its best feature was a south-facing terrace where Mary enjoyed the famously hot summer of 1976. Autumn came as a shock: "I became aware that when it rained the roof leaked onto my bed. I'd climb up and siphon it out but there was a lot of water up there."

The owner, "an awkward so and so", lived on the ground floor and refused to repair the roof. In 1979 Mary tired of tarpaulins and "although sad to leave" eventually sold for pounds 32,000. Preparing for imminent retirement, Mary moved down-market - and bought a two-bedroom flat for pounds 29,000 in West Brompton, overlooking the cemetery.

She expected to live there indefinitely but in 1985, her neighbour below sold to new young owners. "They were perfectly nice but their lifestyle and mine didn't gel," Mary recalls politely. No longer happy in the flat, she sold the remaining 80-year lease for pounds 52,000 and again "moved down", buying the mansion-block flat in which she now lives for pounds 47,750 - with no mortgage, thanks to astute financial planning and the maturation of her endowment.

While initially hesitant about moving south of the river, she loves her spacious flat which now has a conservation order.

THOSE MOVES IN BRIEF:

1970 - bought one-bedroom flat in Bayswater for pounds 5,650, sold for pounds 10,000.

1975 - bought South Kensington flat for pounds 16,000, sold for pounds 32,000.

1979 - bought West Brompton flat for pounds 29,000 sold for pounds 52,000.

1985 - bought Vauxhall two-bedroom flat for pounds 47,750, now worth around pounds 120,000.

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

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