In 1985 Mark applied for teaching posts in Yorkshire and Norfolk, where his girlfriend was from: "Fate took us to Norwich and we've been here ever since." He paid pounds 23,000 for his first house, which he describes as "a typical Norwich terrace". Its front door opened into the lounge and the third bedroom was reached from the second.
Mark was happy here but, having always rented, found his new responsibilities ominous: "We'd never worried about cracks in the walls or whether storms would blow the roof off." He also felt rapidly older: "Once you buy property middle-age begins. You find yourself shopping for towel-rails and tiles."
After two years spent slipping into middle age and decorating every room in the house, Mark and his wife sold it for pounds 28,000 and bought another Victorian terrace for pounds 55,000, in Norwich's "Golden Triangle", where, as Mark says: "More people own pianos than Rottweilers." The house was convenient for Mark's wife's job in a hospice down the road, but less convenient was its downstairs bathroom and parking problems caused by commuters: "We found it irritating not being able to park outside our house."
But by 1990 their two incomes and "frugal Yorkshire spending patterns" made moving once more affordable. They sold for pounds 65,000 and bought a 1920s detached house half a mile from the city centre, in Grove Walk, an area Mark calls "quiet, civilised and tree-lined". He loved this "delightful house" with its original metal windows and rooms with "curved corners rather than 90-degree ones".
They decorated every room, stripped and polished the floorboards and installed a solid wood kitchen. By 1994 Mark remembers: "The house looked wonderful. Then we had children." Aesthetics were no longer a priority: "We needed four bedrooms and somewhere closer to a good school."
In 1995 they sold for pounds 90,000 and paid pounds 124,000 for a five-year-old house in the Norwich suburb of Cringleford. Its benefits are many, including proximity to the city, and a distinct village community with a good school. The downsides? "The house is little more than a box, has plastic windows and is the least attractive we've lived in, but we don't give a monkeys!"
Mark clearly loves his home and location: "Doors and windows that actually shut, a choice of three toilets and confidence that the chimney won't collapse. Luxury! Norwich is a good city. If it had hills and rugby league it'd be a great city."
Those moves in brief
1985: bought terrace for pounds 23,000, sold for pounds 28,000.
1987: bought house in "Golden Triangle" for pounds 55,000, sold for pounds 65,000.
1990: bought 1920s house for pounds 79,000, sold for pounds 90,000.
1995: bought Cringleford detached house for pounds 124,000, now worth pounds 140,000.
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