THE MOTIVATION for Richard Welch, a teacher, to buy his first property back in 1967 was clear: "I was finding getting digs in posh Beaconsfield increasingly difficult." With an "absolutely critical" pounds 800 loan from his father at 4 per cent and a council mortgage at 7.25 per cent, he paid pounds 3,300 for a mid-terrace house in Wooburn Green, Buckinghamshire.

The house, built in 1868, was grandly called Grosvenor Place, but Mr Welch changed it: "I named my little place Carlton House." His pounds 847 annual salary gave him a monthly take-home pay of pounds 55, from which he made mortgage payments of pounds 21.

In 1970 Mr Welch sold the house to his brother, repaid his father and had enough left for a deposit on a new end-of-terrace in Royston, Hertfordshire, which cost pounds 5,100. He married Janette, and after deciding to start a family they began to think about buying a detached house. They visited a local estate agent. "An awful little man told me not to consider detached, as people moved from end-of-terrace to semi-detached." The insult gave him an idea: "At that moment I resolved to build our own detached house."

In 1974 Mr Welch and Janette sold their end-of-terrace for pounds 10,750. They went to another agent and found a plot, "the only one", which they bought within days thanks to a bank's self-build phased mortgage. The plot cost pounds 9,250, the building pounds 9,000, and they enjoyed the experience: "We decided that building houses wasn't that hard, so in the summer of 1976 we bought a plot for pounds 9,000 with planning permission for three bungalows."

They borrowed pounds 900 for the deposit, and although his teacher's salary may have been lacking, there were advantages: "I had no idea where the balance of pounds 8,100 was coming from except that I had an introduction to a bank manager from a wealthy client of his whose son I taught." The bank manager agreed to lend Mr Welch pounds 2,500, and he "quickly borrowed pounds 2,100 from friends". Mr Welch changed the planning permission from three bungalows to eight maisonettes. He set up a limited company, built houses over a two-year period and, after repaying his debts, made a cool pounds 20,000 at a time when a headteacher's salary was pounds 6,000.

In 1978 they sold the self-build house for pounds 36,500 when Mr Welch moved to a new school in Oxfordshire, where they bought a new house for pounds 33,000, adding two extensions as their children came along.

In 1985 Mr Welch decided to give up teaching in favour of setting up and running a school study centre: "We bought a beautiful 20-room stone house built in 1573 for pounds 109,000 from Midland Bank, which was in the process of repossessing it."

Having spent around pounds 100,000 renovating, the couple are still running their successful business, "based on the house and its seven and a half acres of glorious countryside". The recently listed house is now worth about pounds 400,000. Looking back prompts Mr Welch's thoughts: "I now realise what a gambler I was. But the gambles were based on quite a lot of thinking."

Those moves in brief

1967 Bought terraced house for pounds 3,300, sold it for pounds 4,100.

1970 Bought new terrace-end for pounds 5,100, sold it for pounds 10,750.

1974 Bought plot for pounds 9,000 (plus building costs), sold it for pounds 36,500 in1978.

1976 Bought another plot for pounds 9,000, built several houses and made pounds 20,000.

1978 Bought new Oxfordshire house for pounds 33,000, sold it for pounds 98,500.

1985 Bought 20-room Welsh house for pounds 109,000, worth pounds 400,000.

If you would like your moves featured, e-mail or write to John Willcock, Stepping Stones, One Canada Square, Canary Wharf, London E14 5DL. pounds 100 prize for the best story printed; entries by 31 December