Property: Stepping Stones

One Couple's Property Story

"A GREAT deal has happened to us, not only property-wise," says Janet Midlane, who has bought six properties in her time and who warns: "Stepping stones can be slippery."

Finding sharing with a stranger to be an odd experience, Janet decided in 1982 that it would be easier and cheaper to buy. She got a 100-per- cent mortgage and paid pounds 19,950 for a first-floor, two-bedroom flat in Watford. Training as a careers adviser meant a great deal of travelling, so the following July she sold for pounds 26,950, and rented a flat in Weymouth, Dorset.

She and her fiance David bought a small cottage for pounds 29,950, which was "cold but full of character". After getting married in 1986, they sold it for pounds 36,000.

They then bought a 300-year-old, two-bedroom cottage for pounds 40,000, which they considered expensive but loved for its garden and views: "Here began our DIY in earnest, carrying out minor repairs and restoring it to its former glory."

After "getting the bug", they decided to sell at the tail end of the boom for "the magnificent sum of pounds 75,000", and paid pounds 60,000 for an unmodernised cottage and barn in Dorset which had no toilet, and a bath in the kitchen. They lived in a caravan while they and their builders struggled to create a home - surviving winter mud, summer dust, wet and cold.

"We spent our wedding anniversary cutting stone," recalls Janet.

The improvements cost pounds 40,000, plus a record collection sold to pay for a kitchen, but worse was to come. On what Janet calls "Black Wednesday" David fell from a ladder and broke his neck.

"People kept saying how lucky he was, but it didn't feel like it at the time," she says. David recovered, but the couple feared the house was unlucky, so in 1992 they decided to sell. Again they were told how lucky they were, this time by an estate agent, when they got a "disappointing pounds 95,000" for the ill-fated house.

Admitting to "panic buying" a Thirties bungalow for pounds 70,000, which cost pounds 12,000 to refurbish, they got their money back when they sold for pounds 86,500 three years later.

For pounds 79,000, Janet and David then found their "ideal home"; a detached, four-bedroom, 300-year-old cottage, again in Dorset and with a "reasonable amount of work to get our teeth into". Sadly, builders later found "the best-built thing in the place was a wasps' nest".

Some pounds 30,000 later, they had a fantastic house but no money or carpets. A job with accommodation in Derbyshire meant another move so they sold (a year after it went on the market at pounds 125,000) for pounds 92,500. After being made redundant in August 1998, the Midlanes have "taken the money and run" to a rented cottage in Cornwall. They are considering buying again but will "think carefully" before doing so. In spite of their love of old buildings, they are not risking any more ladders: "This time we're going to buy something modern."

Ginetta Vedrickas

Those moves in brief:

1982 - bought flat for pounds 19,950, sold for pounds 26,950.

1985 - bought terrace for pounds 29,950, sold for pounds 36,000.

1986 - bought terrace end for pounds 40,000, sold for pounds 75,000.

1989 - bought "ruin" for pounds 60,000, sold for pounds 95,000.

1992 - bought bungalow for pounds 70,000, sold for pounds 86,500.

1995 - bought four-bed detached for pounds 79,000, sold for pounds 92,000 in 1998.

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 March

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