One Couple's Property Story
MARGARET AND Greg Alexander have bought five properties together: four in East Kilbride, Scotland and their most recent in Swindon.

After living together in Greg's local Development Corporation - "posh words for council" - flat in East Kilbride, in 1984 they married and immediately applied to buy the property. A 33 per cent discount, thanks to the Right to Buy legislation, meant it was theirs for pounds 12,900: "The proviso was that if we sold within three years the Corporation would get a pro rata return on the discount," recalls Greg.

Improvements included adding a stone fireplace and cork tiles; then, when the discount period expired, they sold for pounds 24,000. They considered buying a three-bed semi in a good area: "But we didn't have the confidence to make the jump to what seemed a whopping pounds 36,000."

Instead they settled for a two- bedroom semi in a "desirable cul-de-sac" which cost pounds 32,000. One child later and another on the way meant they now needed three bedrooms. A boom in their current location's popularity helped them to realise pounds 48,500 from their sale; but, with Margaret working only part- time, they did not want to take on a large increase in their mortgage. So they bought an ex-council property in a "none too attractive area", which cost pounds 50,500. Its previous owners had vanished to Australia, leaving Margaret and Greg to cope with "lots of burly visitors demanding a forwarding address".

Despite making dramatic improvements to the house, they found themselves "never particularly happy there". So four years later they sold for pounds 54,000 and returned to the more desirable area, this time paying pounds 70,000 for a three-bedroomed house. "It was modern, quite small and not perfect but, being detached and in an area we liked, was progress in our eyes."

But this purchase brought a nasty realisation. "Had we bought the pounds 36,000 property back in 1988, two moves and the associated expense could have been saved. If one is allowed just one mistake in property moves, buying a nice house in a not-so-nice area was certainly ours."

The couple's next move took them from East Kilbride, where Margaret had always lived, to Swindon, thanks to a job opportunity for Greg. On a weekend househunting trip, they bought the first house they saw, for pounds 78,500, and, thanks to "our area's ever-buoyant market", sold their Scottish home for pounds 72,00 within two weeks.

Their four-bedroomed home's "superbly converted loft" and high standard of decoration compensates for its semi-detached status: Greg finds the inevitable noise which comes through the walls rather disappointing after living in a detached home.

A similar property recently sold for pounds 85,000, meaning the couple are hopeful of "sitting on a little profit". But Greg still hankers after a four-bedroomed detached with en-suite bathroom: "Uncertainty over how long we'll stay and a recently finished discount mortgage mean this is not an immediate option."

Those moves in brief

1984 - bought ex-council flat for pounds 12,900, sold for pounds 24,000.

1988 - bought two-bedroomed semi for pounds 32,500, sold for pounds 48,500.

1992 - bought ex-council house for pounds 50,500, sold for pounds 54,000.

1996 - bought detached home for pounds 70,000, sold for pounds 72,000.

1998 - bought Swindon house for pounds 78,500, now worth pounds 85,000.

If you would like your moves to be featured write to: Nic Cicutti, Stepping Stones, One Canada Square, London E14 5DL. pounds 100 will be awarded for the best story printed by 30 September