Property: Stepping Stones - One woman's property story

MANAGEMENT consultant Ellen Collins has bought three properties since 1986. She now lives in a five-bedroom house in Ealing, west London, with her husband Paul, also a management consultant, and their two sons.

Ellen Collins had no ties with west London but chose it for her first purchase: "It's easy to get to Heathrow and I was born in Holland." As well as airport access she wanted an investment: "Why give your money to someone else?"

Ellen trawled the area's estate agents and soon found a one-bedroom Victorian conversion with access to a shared garden in Chiswick. She paid pounds 50,000 with a 95 per cent mortgage and lived in the flat for seven years. "I loved it and it was fine until I found Paul," she says. They sold in 1993 for pounds 80,000 making a "pleasing" profit in a less than buoyant market.

For their next purchase Ellen and Paul wanted a spacious but affordable house in the same area but this proved difficult. Eventually they found an Edwardian three-bedroom, two-bathroom purpose-built flat with "effectively more space than a house". They beat the vendors down by pounds 10,000 and paid pounds 105,000 in December 1993.

The couple enjoyed their "features-filled" home until the arrival of two sons bought new priorities. In 1997 they had their flat valued at pounds 200,000 but instead of selling it, they decided that its location - a three-minute walk to the tube - made it an attractive proposition to let out.

Using the rental income as finance, they found a five-bedroom Edwardian house in Ealing, which Ellen calls "a quantum leap in terms of space and finance", but with a complication. They viewed in June 1997, exchanged in September at the agreed price, but only completed in August this year. Why the delay? "An elderly couple were retiring and moving away. They didn't want the trauma of worrying about their sale so agreed to sell on condition that we accepted a long period between exchange and completion."

Was the lengthy deferral a gamble? Andrew Grice, director of sales at Winkworth, Ealing, calls the Collins' move "a bit of a belter". "They took a risk and it paid off. During that time the market rose by more than 20 per cent."


1986 - bought one bedroom Victorian conversion for pounds 50,000 sold for pounds 80,00 in 1993.

1993 - bought three bedroom Edwardian purpose built flat for pounds 105,000, valued at pounds 200,00 in 1997.

1998 - bought five bedroom house for pounds 305,000, now worth pounds 400,000.

If you would like your home moves to be featured in Stepping Stones, please write to Nic Cicutti, Stepping Stones, One Canada Square, Canary Wharf, London E14 5DL.