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Property: Stepping Stones- Moving Out, Moving Up

Adrian Charles has bought five properties Since 1987 has has lived with wife Mary and two children in a pounds 300,000 converted factory in London's Greenwich

AFTER SHARING a squat with friends and lots of pigeons, Adrian Charles decided he was "too old for this" and went looking for his own place.

He bought his first property - a former office in a four-storey Georgian house - in Camden in 1987 with a pounds 20,000 inheritance. "It was the right price, pounds 40,000. I literally gutted the place, installed a bathroom and kitchen and turned it into a studio flat. It was great for a single chap but not large enough for the two women in my life." Adrian married Mary in 1988 and they had Harriet later that year. They quickly outgrew the studio and sold it for pounds 68,000 in 1989.

With the proceeds they bought a dilapidated Victorian terraced house in Wandsworth for a "bargain" pounds 77,000. "We started to restore but there was so much to do. We got council grants for some work but also had cowboy builders to contend with. There was too much work so we never finished it."

With a toddler to care for and demanding careers, Mary is a solicitor, they decided on a radical change of plan. Selling their Wandsworth house for pounds 128,000 in 1991 they moved to Cornwall, where they rented for six months, before buying Wintree cottage in a mining village near Truro for pounds 75,000. "It was supposed to be like The Good Life."

After having their second child, Adrian and Mary missed family and friends and found it hard to adjust to rural life. In 1992 they moved back to London but the market had slumped and mortgage rates were high. Nobody wanted Wintree. The house eventually sold in 1994 for pounds 53,000 leaving Adrian and Mary with a negative equity of pounds 5,000.

They then rented a Greenwich cottage for pounds 750 a month and bought the house opposite in 1996 for pounds 70,000, with a 100 per cent mortgage, which reduced their monthly housing costs to pounds 230. In 1997 it sold for pounds 135,000 and the money was put towards their "dream property in the heart of Greenwich".

After their disastrous Cornwall move they settled for a converted factory with a 40ft-long living "space" for pounds 280,000, which is now estimated to be worth more than pounds 300,000. Those Moves In brief 1987 - bought Camden flat for pounds 40,000, sold for pounds 68,000. 1989 - bought Wandsworth house for pounds 77,000, sold for pounds 128,000. 1991 - bought Cornwall cottage for pounds 75,000, sold for pounds 53,000. 1996 - bought Greenwich house for pounds 70,000, sold for pounds 135,000. 1997 - bought factory for pounds 280,000 - now worth pounds 300,000.