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Property: Stepping Stones

LOCAL GOVERNMENT officer Teresa Coen has bought three Edwardian properties in Streatham since 1984. She lives with husband Conrad and their children in a four-bedroom house.

Teresa and Conrad Coen were renting in Brixton but, growing tired of maintaining other peoples' properties, asked themselves: "Why rent forever?" They wanted to live locally because of work but financial constraints limited them: "Prices were booming but we could only afford pounds 28,000."

They chose Streatham, just up the hill but with a "different feel", and paid pounds 27,000 for a two-bedroom, 80-year leasehold Edwardian flat which needed work: "It was in the days when they slapped on retentions. No-one else wanted to do the work so we got it."

Their building society withheld pounds 4,000 until rewiring, central heating and other work was completed but Teresa, thanks to her family's help, was unfazed: "My dad's a builder and my uncle rewired." The family, now including their daughter, settled in.

The short lease wasn't problematic but four years later the Coens "wanted a freehold interest". "Everything was being snapped up. We didn't realise how popular the area was." In 1988 they sold for pounds 82,000 and, for the same sum, bought another Edwardian property, a three-bedroom terraced house which they loved for its "beautiful features; ceramic floors and leaded light cupboards and windows". Again it needed partial renovation but had central heating and recent wiring.

The family lived there happily for 10 years but another daughter and son meant they needed another bedroom. Teresa looked round but half-heartedly: "We weren't sure how much we could afford and prices for four-bedroom houses were a big jump from three."

The pair wanted somewhere with potential and Teresa insisted that it should have "period features we could work with". A stagnant market brought little choice and a dilemma. Renovated houses were unaffordable but cheaper houses were unappealing: "People do such awful things that there is no way of fully restoring."

They searched for many months considering, but not buying, "almost right" houses. Teresa describes the moment they found their new home: "Sometimes you just go `Wow'!"The "wow-provoking" house was chanced upon accidentally: "We were depressed about not finding anywhere, went for a walk and saw the `For Sale' sign."

Teresa and Conrad offered the asking price for the four-bedroom Edwardian house which was accepted, but the process was delayed when the vendor's purchase faltered. Steep price rises during the delay, although not their fault, meant they had to increase their offer by pounds 7,000 in order to complete.

Local agent, Andrew Lane, of Kinleigh, Folkard & Hayward says they still got a good deal: "Streatham has benefited from Clapham pricing itself out of the market. It's peaceful here and you can park outside your own house." In January 1998 the Coens paid pounds 142,000 for their house which is now worth around pounds 220,000.


1984 - bought two bedroom leasehold flat for pounds 27,000 sold for pounds 82,000.

1988 - bought three bedroom terraced house for pounds 82,000 sold for pounds 107,000.

1998 - bought four bedroom house for pounds 142,000 now worth pounds 220,000.