"It was in run-down Archway and I'd been a sitting tenant for three years, hence the low price." They renovated "on a shoestring" and, after three years, sold for pounds 16,500 and split the profits.
On her own, Helen wanted "a flat that I could just move into" and she found one: a one-bedroom Edwardian conversion in Highgate which cost pounds 10,500. In 1978, still single "but wanting more space and a garden", she sold her flat for pounds 15,500 and bought a three-bedroom Victorian terraced house in "up and coming" Stoke Newington for pounds 26,000. The house had been renovated, so she turned her attentions to the garden: "I turned a rubbish dump into a haven of wildlife and flowers." Situated between two pubs, the house was noisy, so in 1980 she sold it for pounds 34,000.
This time she chose a quieter street, still in Stoke Newington, near Clissold Park, where an Edwardian three-storey house "with lots of character" cost pounds 43,000. Helen became a single parent, but in 1984 she met her partner, who moved in with her and her daughter. "We decided to start afresh and buy together, but it was hard to leave and I had to part with lots of furniture."
In 1986 she sold for pounds 78,000: "We were lucky to find a wonderful, sunny, three-storey house in South Hampstead, a stone's throw from the heath. We got married and our son was born in the front room in 1987."
Eventually, they decided to move to Worcestershire to be near to Helen's husband's work. "I fell in love with a Gothic listed mansion house which needed everything doing to it but which had a magic atmosphere," she recalls. They paid "the bargain price of pounds 123,500" for the eight-bedroomed house. They sold their Hampstead house for pounds 247,000 in 1988, just before prices slumped.
Church House, Helen's gorgeous Gothic pile (pictured above) is worth pounds 350,000, and she intends to stay a long time, but her property story isn't over: "I recently fell in love with a house in France and bought it. It's my project; perhaps the cycle will start again."
Those moves in brief
1972 - bought Archway terrace for pounds 11,500, sold for pounds 16,500.
1975 - bought Highgate flat for pounds 10,500, sold for pounds 15,500.
1978 - bought Stoke Newington house for pounds 26,000, sold for pounds 34,000.
1981 - bought Clissold Crescent house for pounds 43,000, sold for pounds 78,000.
1985 - bought Hampstead house for pounds 123,500, sold for pounds 247,500.
1988 - bought house in Worcestershire for pounds 123,500. Now worth pounds 350,000.
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