One Woman's Property Story
CATHY O'FARRELL has bought three properties since 1985. She now lives with her husband and children in a three-bedroom house in St Margarets, west London.

In 1985, Cathy tired of renting in Fulham and was keen to buy, although her parents, who are from the North, thought she should wait. She persuaded them that buying was a good move, and went for a pounds 30,000 studio flat in Acton, west London. The studio had one large room: "It was the only way I could get on the property ladder," admits Cathy, but she liked living close to friends and work.

In 1988 she sold for pounds 51,500 and was pleased with her profit, but she believes a Fulham purchase would have yielded more. This didn't deter her from buying, again in Acton, a ground-floor, one-bedroom flat with garage, for pounds 53,500. It needed substantial work: "The owners had kept an Alsatian dog, and the interior was pretty disgusting." With family help, Cathy transformed the dirty property into "a great flat".

Eighteen months later, Cathy met her fiance and they decided to buy together. In 1990, the flat sold within a week for pounds 62,000 and the couple bought a two-bedroom Victorian cottage nearby for pounds 110,000, again in Acton. They chose the house for its "warm and cosy feel" but on completion were disappointed with its "dated" appearance without furniture.

The house was soon cosy again and Cathy and her husband spent five happy years there before wanting something bigger and further out west. They focused their search on just two roads in St Margarets. In 1995 they sold for pounds 113,000 and found an ideal house but pulled out days before exchanging contracts: "There was movement, and we were advised against it."

Unwilling to lose their sale, the O'Farrells rented a flat in Kew for six months while they looked again, now in just one road. A house came on for pounds 182,000, "the top end of what we could afford", which they bought. Cathy found herself pregnant with their first child weeks after moving in, but the three-bedroom house, in a good school catchment area, is ideal and because of its situation is currently thought to be worth as much as pounds 300,000. The agents, Chase Buchanan, say: "It is a popular area. Nearby Richmond is more `in your face', while St Margarets is quieter. Cathy's road is in a tight catchment area and several people chasing one house adds to prices."

Ginetta Vedrickas


1985 - bought studio flat for pounds 30,000, sold for pounds 51,500.

1988 - bought one-bedroom flat for pounds 53,500, sold for pounds 62,000.

1990 - bought two-bedroom cottage for pounds 110,00, sold for pounds 113,00 in 1995.

1996 - bought 3-bedroom house for pounds 182,000, now worth pounds 300,000.

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