Stepping Stones

One Woman's Property Story
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The Independent Online

Teacher Penelope Barr has bought four properties over the years, no longer owns her own home, and claims she never will: "It's too complicated and with renting it's so much easier to move whenever you like."

Teacher Penelope Barr has bought four properties over the years, no longer owns her own home, and claims she never will: "It's too complicated and with renting it's so much easier to move whenever you like."

In 1984 she bought a flat in Hackney, east London: "It looked pristine as it had been refurbished by a builder, but I was so naive then I didn't realise what a bodge job it was." The two-bedroom, ground-floor flat, which cost £40,000, soon began to show signs that all was not well: "The wallpaper started coming off everywhere and there was black mould in the kitchen and bathroom."

For the next few years Penelope struggled to solve the problem, including installing a new damp course, but nothing worked and in 1988 she decided to sell: "Luckily by then the boom had gone mad. I decorated and sold it fairly easily, but I did feel a bit guilty."

Penelope got £75,000 for her flat and, for the same amount, bought another conversion, this time in Blackheath: "It was very green, really lovely, and I was so happy there." Soon afterwards she met her husband-to-be, got married and they lived together in the flat: "At first everything was fine while we were both working, but after he lost his job he began to hate London and wanted to move to the country."

Eventually Penelope was persuaded into leaving London and in 1990 she sold her Blackheath flat for £95,000. The couple moved to Wiltshire where they bought a Victorian cottage for £84,000: "Neither of us particularly liked the house or its location, but it was a compromise and I don't think we ever felt really settled there." They had bought in a town and Penelope has depressing memories of this time: "It was a nondescript house in a nondescript place."

By 1992 they put the house on the market for £85,000 but drew few enquiries. A year later they reduced the price and eventually sold for £80,000 and bought a pair of knocked-through cottages, again in Wiltshire, but this time in the countryside: "My husband was pleased but I began to feel that it wasn't my dream," she says.

The couple ran a bed-and-breakfast for a while but Penelope grew more dissatisfied: "We split up and I came back to London, which was an enormous relief." She rented until 1998 then bought a Sixties-built house in West Norwood for £85,000: "Everyone kept telling me to buy before I missed my chance."

But after finding maintenance expensive, at the beginning of this year she sold for £125,000: "I've realised there is more to life than owning your own home. I prefer freedom to security."

Those moves in brief

1984: bought Hackney flat for £40,000, sold for £75,000.

1988: bought Blackheath flat for £75,000, sold for £95,000.

1990: bought Wiltshire cottage for £84,000, sold for £80,000.

1993: bought knocked-through cottages for £78,000, left to husband.

1998: bought Sixties house for £85,000, sold for £125,000.

* If you would like your moves to be featured e-mail ginetta@dircon.co.uk or write to: Jackie Hunter, Stepping Stones, The Independent, One Canada Square, Canary Wharf, London E14 5DL

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