Peter Ward trained as an accountant in Birmingham, but in1983, after being drawn to "London's bright lights", he made his first purchase there. "I'd rented for three years and fast-rising prices made owning my own home a priority."
His three-bedroom end-of-terrace house in Peckham, south London, allowed him to cut his teeth on DIY.Some friends moved in, which helped pay the mortgage, as did girlfriend Carol. After marrying, the couple sold within three weeks at the peak of the Eighties boom helped by the "transformation of south Peckham into Dulwich borders in estate-agent speak".
The couple's next step was a large, three-bedroom Edwardian end-of-terrace in Herne Hill, also bordering Dulwich. The same family had lived in the house since 1906 and it needed substantial work, but it had high ceilings and mature walled garden. A change of job in 1993 at the depths of the property recession meant selling the London house for £127,500. "This gave us a paper profit of £8,500 as we'd spent around £18,000 on improvements," says Peter, whose next job took them to Handforth - "bordering fashionable Wilmslow" - in Cheshire, south of Manchester.
The Wards paid £137,000 for a double-fronted, 1930s detached house with separate double garage in another "improving area". Carol and Peter spent five years decorating and added finishing touches but another job change in 1998 prompted the sale of their Cheshire house for £177,000.
They moved to Guiseley, on the northern edge of Leeds, and for Peter, born and brought up in Yorkshire, "It felt like the return of the prodigal son". Their current Sixties-built house cost £182,000. "It needed a mixture of cosmetic treatment and TLC and experience taught us to get the electrics updated first."
Now restored to its former glory the house is worth £240,000. Peter summarises the lessons learned: "We always look for some upside in a property and are prepared to put effort in to get a house the way we want it." Carol says: "As soon as we finish a house we seem to leave it."
The couple regret leaving good friends in Cheshire and London, and Peter concedes: "Staying in London would have been as lucrative, because Herne Hill houses like ours now sell for around £250,00." But both are very happy with their current location. "Being near the country more than compensates, and the excellent schools in the area underpin house prices. We've already made wonderful friends here."
Those moves in brief
1983: Bought Peckham house for £31,000, sold for £84,500. 1988: bought Herne Hill house for £119,000, sold for £127,500. 1993: bought Cheshire detached for £137,000, sold for £177,000. 1998: bought current Leeds home for £182,000, now worth £240,000.
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