Property: Stepping Stones - One Family's Property Story

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The Independent Online
LOCAL GOVERNMENT policy manager Wendy Reade has bought three south London properties since 1986. She now lives in a four-bedroom Victorian house in East Dulwich with her two children.

"It was living in a council flat that made me buy," Wendy remembers, "all those terrible leaks." In 1986 she found what she thought was a perfect one-bedroom conversion at the right price. She paid pounds 32,000 for the flat which backed onto the local park: "It seemed a good idea at the time but people could just jump over the fence and be in my garden."

Two years later Wendy sold for pounds 75,000 and searched for "something nicer". Armed with a hefty sum of capital, she looked long and hard for her next home but admits to being swayed by the frenzy in 1988: "Prices were rising and the pressure was on. I was a woman obsessed, I had to buy whatever the cost."

The cost was high and it would take years to recover from it. Wendy bought a three-storey early Victorian terrace in Elephant and Castle for pounds 105,000: "I fell in love with the outside but inside it was a shell and needed everything." Intent on renovating her love object to the highest specifications, she installed state of the art bathrooms and kitchen, slate floors and period fireplaces.

Wendy had not anticipated the expense, pounds 20,000, and one day reality dawned: "It was beautiful but we couldn't afford to live there."

With her son, Taylor, she decided to rent out the house and stay with relatives. They moved back when their finances improved but while life inside the house was beautiful, outside was not: "You could walk over the river into town but it was hopeless for children, horrible parks full of dog shit and fumes."

Wendy's second pregnancy increased the pressure and she decided to sell "the yoke around my neck" despite plummeting prices. She wanted somewhere in East Dulwich but found few affordable properties after selling for a "galling" pounds 89,000. Again they lived with relatives.

When an estate agent told her that a house she'd rejected as too expensive had been reduced by pounds 15,000, Wendy decided to jump back onto the property ladder and paid pounds 77,000 for a four-bedroom semi-detached. After spending pounds 25,000 creating a loft room, installing ensuite bathrooms and a huge kitchen, the family is settled in a "lovely road" near to parks and good schools.

Any regrets? "I wish I'd looked here before buying my second house." Tom Newell of Roy Brooks is selling a larger house in the same road for pounds 250,000 and raves about the relatively "undiscovered area". He says: "It really is a community with fantastic shops not just rows of wine bars. People who come here tend to stay."

The Moves

1986 - bought one bedroom Brixton flat for pounds 32,000 sold for pounds 75,000 in 1988.

1988 - bought Elephant & Castle "shell" for pounds 105,000 sold for pounds 89,000 in 1994.

1995 - bought East Dulwich four-bedroom for pounds 77,000 worth around pounds 200,000.

If you would like your moves to be featured write to: Nic Cicutti, Stepping Stones, One Canada Square, Canary Wharf, London E14 5DL. pounds 100 will be awarded for the best stories.