Property: Stepping Stones

One Family's Property Story
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Indy Lifestyle Online
CHRIS WRIGHT has bought three properties since 1975. He now lives with his parents in Yorkshire.

Chris and wife Jan's first purchase was a terraced house in Manchester for pounds 5,650. The attractive exterior belied internal anomalies: "When previous owners spilt something on the lino they laid another layer." Plus, the street became less quiet: "We offended the neighbours with parties full of people with not much on and we had no curtains."

In 1977 the couple moved to London after selling for pounds 6,000, a move Chris sees as a bad mistake: "We were renting while prices rocketed." Jan's pregnancy the following year prompted a move out of London to a 400-year- old house on the Isle of Ely, bought for pounds 17,500, where they kept livestock and had three children in four years. Chris commuted 70 "expensive and tiring" miles daily: "It was hard getting home and finding the kids had played up and there was no dinner."

Exhausted, Chris jumped at the chance of a "golden handshake" which was used to fund an African adventure. Renting out their house, they travelled and slept in a Land Rover with their children aged four, two and one: "We wanted to show that having kids doesn't have to stop you travelling."

The trip was "marvellous" until cut short by an accident in Cameroon. The family was saved by a "wonderful man with two wives" who patched up the van and found them a temporary home, a mud hut where they spent Christmas getting water from a hole in the ground. The van limped home but they arrived back with itchy feet: "We longed for the space of Africa and the nearest to that in Europe is Portugal."

In 1985 they sold for pounds 51,000, packed their belongings in a caravan and bought an abandoned Portuguese farm for pounds 13,500. The isolated valley held 25 acres of "eagles, butterflies and wonderful climate" but no water or electricity. Chris has happy memories of years "trying and failing to be self sufficient", even when the worst rains in 40 years forced them to live in a shack with plastic sheeting roofing and an oil-drum stove.

They started up a school and eventually sold their smallholding for pounds 42,000, when their children's need for secondary schools meant moving to a city, where they rented. In 1998 their first son started university in the UK, so the family returned and are now living with Chris's parents in his childhood home.

They are considering buying a terraced house in Manchester for pounds 30,000, completing a full circle of moves spanning several continents. Chris's advice? "Don't worry about the future - it's about doing things, not having things."

Those moves in brief...

1975 - bought Manchester terrace for pounds 5,650; sold for pounds 6,000 in 1977.

1978 - bought 400-year-old house on Isle of Ely for pounds 17,500; sold for pounds 51,000.

1985 - bought Portuguese farm for pounds 13,000; sold for pounds 42,000 in 1997.

1998 - about to buy Manchester terrace for pounds 30,000.

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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