Property: Stepping Stones

One couple's property story
ROBERT AND Sheila Pearl's story spans 42 years and eight purchases.

After marrying in 1957 they rented a "crumbling Victorian flat" in Leicester; but a year later, with a baby on the way, the couple decided that it was time to buy.

"Fond dreams of a thatched cottage soon gave way to reality," remembers Robert, and their compromise was a three-year-old semi in a nearby village, bought for pounds 1,750. By 1961, and baby number three's arrival, a job in London meant another move. Again their hopes were dashed: "More fond dreams of a larger house for our expanding family evaporated in the face of inflated prices compared with Leicester."

Somewhat predictably, an agent told them that they would never recoup their purchase price: "We dumbfounded him and sold for pounds 2,025." They then searched further than London, balancing housing against commuting costs, until they settled on a 1930s three-bedroomed semi in Tonbridge, Kent, bought for pounds 3,250.

The next few years saw the Pearls on the move around the country. A promotion meant a quick sale for pounds 3,750 and the purchase of a detached chalet in Basingstoke for pounds 5,500. Baby number four's arrival brought a need for more space and coincided with another promotion, this time in Hertfordshire.

In 1968, they sold for pounds 6,300 and for pounds 8,750 bought a four-bedroomed detached 1930s house in St Albans. "It was a case of buy in haste, repent at leisure," says Robert, as they unearthed problems including damp, and metal frames which fell out when they opened the windows.

By 1970 they had had enough, so they sold the house for pounds 9,250 "to an unsuspecting purchaser", and for pounds 10,000 bought a five-bedroomed 1880s house in Fleet, Hampshire: "I made an offer which the agent said was too low to put forward, but a month later I got a call to say it was accepted."

They were unwilling to repeat their earlier mistake, and a full survey revealed the house's requirements. They set about restoration, tackling electrics, plumbing, redecoration and, when funds allowed, central heating, at a total cost of around pounds 3,000. But in 1977 a leaking roof, which they had no means of repairing, forced a sale at pounds 26,000.

In its place they bought a Fifties-built house where they stayed until 1985. When three of their four children left home, the Pearls "downsized" to a three-bedroomed cottage in the sought-after Hampshire village of Odiham. Child number four left "after the move interrupted his social life", leaving the Pearls to enjoy life together.

But instead of peace they discovered a damp problem, not revealed by a survey, which they failed to eradicate over the next seven years. "This, coupled with a hostile native, persuaded us that life elsewhere would be more comfortable."

So in 1992 they sold to a young couple for pounds 123,000, "having made them fully aware of the damp problem", and bought a 1960s house for pounds 109,000.

Here the couple still live surrounded by "friendly neighbours aged 0- 70" and a large nature reserve: "As long as we can manage the stairs, we'll stay." They estimate the house's value at pounds 165,000.

Ginetta Vedrickas:

Those moves in brief

1958 Bought Leicester semi for pounds 1,750, sold for pounds 2,025.

1961 Bought Tonbridge semi for pounds 3,250, sold for pounds 3,750.

1963 Bought Basingstoke chalet for pounds 5,500, sold for pounds 6,300.

1968 Bought St Albans four-bed for pounds 8,750, sold for pounds 9,250.

1970 Bought 1880s house for pounds 10,000, sold for pounds 26,000.

1977 Bought four-bed for pounds 28,500, sold for pounds 84,000.

1985 Bought Victorian cottage for pounds 88,000, sold for pounds 123,000.

1992 Bought 1960s detached for pounds 109,000, now worth pounds 165,000.

If you would like your moves featured write to: Nic Cicutti, Stepping Stones, 1 Canada Square, Canary Wharf, London E14 5DL. pounds 100 for the best story printed by 30 June