MANDY EVANS, a TV producer, and her partner Syd - who have bought three properties since 1984 - were the first of their peers to buy, but were surprised at friends' reactions. "One said: `You're really stupid.' They thought we were mad," Mandy remembers.

However, their only alternative was a squalid rented flat in Hackney; and Mandy believes that their backgrounds also influenced them: "Our parents had bought, so we thought we should." She admits to a certain naivety about the process: "We were told we could borrow up to pounds 50,000 but we didn't dare; it seemed such a lot of money at the time."

They viewed only two properties and plumped for the second, a converted, ground-floor two-bedroom flat, overlooking Hackney's main road, which cost pounds 38,000. The flat, in a listed building, had certain advantages: "It was close to friends and the flower market and near a good pub and fish-and-chip shop. There was even a bingo club if I got desperate," Mandy recalls.

The couple lived there for six years but found the community feeling starting to fade: "We were burgled and my car was broken into every Friday night because of the disco-pubs."

Finally, a combination of the flower market's popularity - "you couldn't move on Sunday mornings" - and the mugging of nurses living next door prompted Mandy and Syd to move. They sold their flat for pounds 87,000, "to a reporter from The Sun, which made it even better," and moved to Blackheath. This time they viewed at least 70 properties before settling on a huge top-floor flat in a semi-detached house built in 1790. The property, uninhabited since the great storm of 1987, still bore the scars: "The roof tiles were ripped off and it had flooded. Our friend insisted that a huge stain on the carpet was the result of a murder."

In 1990 they paid pounds 94,000 for the flat, which they loved for its "four big, square rooms".

In 1996 they decided on a second home in the "forgotten" resort of Broadstairs. They paid pounds 39,000 for a two-bedroom flat on the top two floors of a house built in 1800. They now enjoy the benefits of a London flat and a coastal retreat: "It's stretched us, and the dying ferry industry means prices have not risen, but it's worth it."

Those moves in brief...

1984 - bought Hackney flat for pounds 38,000, sold for pounds 87,000.

1990 - bought Blackheath flat for pounds 94,000, now worth around pounds 160,000.

1997 - bought second home in Broadstairs for pounds 39,000. No increase in value.

If you would like your moves featured, write to: Nic Cicutti, Stepping Stones, The Independent, 1 Canada Sq, London E14 5DL. A prize of pounds 100 will be awarded for the best story published before 31 March