Property Stepping Stones: Twelve steps to heaven (well, Swindon)

One Couple's Property Story

WHEN DEREK Moore took his first step on the property ladder the rung promptly broke. Mr Moore and his wife Susan paid pounds 1,950 for a bungalow in Lincolnshire for their return to civilian life from the RAF. But the RAF sent him to Berlin for his final year, forcing a hasty sale.

In 1969 Mr Moore left the RAF and began a teaching course in Leeds. But despite his 25 per cent deposit, no one would lend him more money. To satisfy his lender Mr Moore got "a proper job" and bought an unmodernised semi for pounds 2,950. "My DIY skills were minimal and the learning curve was steep," he says. Two years later they had to move again and decided on a private sale to save money. "From day one it was apparent that we had seriously undervalued the property," he adds. They got pounds 4,750 and bought a new house from a school friend for pounds 4,500.

By 1974, work meant another move, to Swindon, where a terrace cost them pounds 10,500. Mr Moore says: "The previous owner had taken the kitchen units and anything else not screwed down, which we naively accepted." Two years later they sold for the same amount and spent pounds 14,500 on a bungalow in Brighton.

He used this house as "a classroom for my DIY skills" until he bought a pounds 20,500 bungalow 10 minutes after it came onto the market. Two years later he sold and turned his attentions to "renovating" a 1930s semi. "I use the term loosely," he says. "This was when polystyrene beams were in vogue." By now the Moores were looking for the big one. Finances were limited to pounds 48,000 but this didn't stop them viewing more expensive houses. When an agent told him of a vendor who wanted pounds 60,000 but would take pounds 48,000, Derek jumped.

"This detached house had everything we could have wished for," says Mr Moore. But by the time it was finished they found, the novelty of restoration was wearing thin. They found a small terrace, an executor's sale, but with a catch. "The agent did everything in his power to dissuade us," says Mr Moore. "He even said it had been taken off the market." They pursued the house and discovered there was one offer, from the estate agent's son. "After much acrimony our offer was accepted."

With no mortgage, the Moores spent their profits on a holiday cottage in Yorkshire. "This was a turning point in our lives," says Mr Moore. The couple increasingly spent more time there, Mr Moore began a politics degree, and they sold their Brighton home for pounds 78,000. Eventually they part-exchanged their cottage for a barn and ran a B&B until Derek began teaching. The barn took two years to sell and after recouping pounds 118,000 they used pounds 64,000 for a pair of knocked-through cottages.

As with the best-laid plans: "Things took an unexpected turn when I was offered a two-year post in Botswana," says Mr Moore. This year they sold the cottages and bought a detached house in Swindon to rent out while they are away. They leave in January 2000 and are scouring Cornwall "for a plot to build our perfect home on our return".

Those moves in brief

1968: bought bungalow for pounds 1,950, sold for pounds 1,950

1969: bought semi for pounds 2,950, sold for pounds 4,750

1971: bought town house for pounds 4,500, sold for pounds 7,995

1974: bought terrace for pounds 10,500, sold for pounds 10,500

1976: bought Brighton bungalow for pounds 14,500, sold for pounds 22,000

1980: bought semi for pounds 20,500, sold for pounds 47,500

1984: bought Brighton detached for pounds 48,000, sold for pounds 78,000

1987: bought Brighton terrace for pounds 32,950, sold for pounds 76,500

1989: bought Yorkshire cottage for pounds 33,000, sold for pounds 55,000 (part exchange)

1991: bought barn for pounds 128,000, sold for pounds 118,000

1996: bought cottages for pounds 64,000, sold for pounds 78,000

1999: bought detached Swindon house for pounds 137,500

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

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