Property: Stepping Stones - One Couple's Property Story

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Indy Lifestyle Online
JOHN AND Gwyneth Oakshott have bought four properties since 1974. They now live in a "Swedish-style" house in Suffolk.

"Our first house was a semi-derelict cottage in Dorset which cost pounds 7,500," remembers Gwyneth. This was the most that she and husband John could afford on their joint teachers' incomes, despite their deposit of pounds 2,500. At the time, the criteria for getting a mortgage depended on the property having hot and cold running water which, happily, it did: "Along with fearful damp, rotting windows, sagging roof and a bathroom like the Black Hole..."

All of the couple's spare time and money went into transforming the cottage, but five years and two small boys later, they were rewarded when it fetched pounds 27,000, enabling them to move to Sussex. This time they bought an Edwardian three-bedroomed village semi which also needed work: "It had been rented out for 40 years to three old ladies, the last of whom had left a year before, aged 90."

Gwyneth describes the house in loving detail: "It had no bathroom or heating, a lonesome butler sink in the kitchen, an ancient bench-style loo and 40-year-old decor." Again they set to transforming the property into a home and, another five years, much hard work and a baby girl later, they sold for pounds 50,000.

In 1985 the Oakshotts moved to Hampshire where they bought a detached, four-bedroomed house for pounds 69,000. This purchase was different to their last two in that it did not require major refurbishment but still had potential for improvement: "It was tatty," Gwyneth recalls, and the changes involved moving doors and partition walls, adding a shower room and enlarging the fourth bedroom.

The improvements led to the creation of a perfect family house: "The end result was a home which I would gladly have taken to any part of the country with us." They lived here for 13 years and only the children leaving home prompted what Gwyneth describes as "what may or may not be our final move".

The Oakshotts decided to "downsize to three bedrooms" and in September 1998 they sold their Hampshire home for pounds 165,000, and for pounds 145,000 bought a "modern Swedish-style house in idyllic surroundings" in Suffolk.

Gwyneth feels that they have been fortunate in their moves: "While fluctuating interest rates have at times creased us, we have not been caught by tumbling prices." She attributes their gradual improved standing in the property market to "years of hard work and no holidays" but over the years has often asked this question: "Would things have been the same if, back in 1974, we could have afforded that end-of-terrace estate house at pounds 10,500?"

Those moves in brief:

1974 - bought Dorset cottage for pounds 7,500, sold for pounds 27,000.

1980 - bought Sussex semi for pounds 31,000, sold for pounds 50,000.

1985 - bought Hampshire detached house for pounds 69,000, sold for pounds 165,000.

1998 - bought modern Suffolk three-bedroomed house for pounds 145,000, now worth pounds 165,000.

If you would like your moves to be featured, write to: Nic Cicutti, Stepping Stones, One Canada Square, London E14 5DL. The best story printed up to 31 March will win pounds 100

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