Property: Stepping Stones - One Woman's Property Story

TV director Louise Rainbow has bought five properties since 1985. She now lives with husband Colin and their two daughters in a pounds 160,000 house built in London's Forest Hill.

LOUISE RAINBOW took her first plunge into property in 1985 with her then boyfriend, and bought a two-bedroom Brixton flat for pounds 30,000. At 26 she was the first of her peers to buy, because: "At the time it was cheaper than renting."

The relationship broke down but the purchase proved auspicious when it came to selling. The abolition of joint tax relief on mortgages caused steep price rises and panic. In March 1988, a prospective buyer offered pounds 68,00 but pulled out. Two months later the flat sold for pounds 78,000 - a profit of pounds 50,000.

Louise put her pounds 25,000 towards a "two-up, two-down" in East Dulwich, bought for pounds 90,000. She married Colin and the small house was fine until they discovered: "I was pregnant with twins."

The market slumped and falling prices prompted fears that selling would leave them with little deposit for their next purchase. In 1991 a refur- bished, Victorian four-bedroom semi with two bathrooms and a small garden came on the market in nearby Forest Hill for pounds 106,000, and Louise and Colin sold their East Dulwich home for pounds 84,000 opting for size over location.

Twins Madeleine and Georgia went to the local school, but gradually Louise became disenchanted: "We realised there were nicer pockets within Forest Hill and the garden was never going to get any bigger." Advantageous mortgage deals and Louise's decision to freelance prompted their "now-or-never" decision.

In 1996 they sold their Victorian four-bed for pounds 110,00 and bought a detached three-bedroom house closer to the school but firmly "on the other side of the tracks" for pounds 106,000. A desirable hill-top location and bigger garden convinced them it was worth sacrificing a bedroom and bathroom for.

Local agent, Robert Stanford, says prices in the area have risen by about 40 per cent since 1996 giving the house a value of pounds 160,000.

Ginetta Vedrickas

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1985 - bought Brixton flat for pounds 30,000, sold for pounds 78,000 in 1988.

1988 - bought East Dulwich etwo up, two down for pounds 90,000 sold for pounds 84,00 in 1991.

1991 - bought Forest Hill four bed semi for pounds 106,000, sold for pounds 110,000 in 1996.

1996 - bought fifties detached house for pounds 106,00, now worth over pounds 160,000.