Stepping Stones

One Man's Property Story
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The Independent Online

Brian Phillips bought his first house in 1975: "I'd been brought up in a council house and had vowed to own my own property." Brian paid £14,000 for his new semi-detached home in Waltham Cross.

Brian Phillips bought his first house in 1975: "I'd been brought up in a council house and had vowed to own my own property." Brian paid £14,000 for his new semi-detached home in Waltham Cross.

A year after meeting his wife Pauline, they sold for £15,000 and for £16,000 bought another new home in Petersfield. They were here for another year, and by 1979 sold for £25,000 after doing "hardly anything to the property as the market was moving again". They then bought a four-bedroomed house with a double garage on the same development for £38,000.

Brian believes that people have always been aware of the vagaries of the property market: "When they get on to the ladder they are always interested in whether it's going up or down." The family lived here until 1982, when Brian got a job in Bahrain and they rented out the house: "It made sense, but I did live to regret it. The chap who stayed there didn't pay any rent and did a bunk, so we had to go to court. It was a nightmare."

On a UK holiday the couple fell in love with an untouched 1930s detached house, "Starcrossed on Love Lane", which needed total renovation. They paid £113,000, organised building works, and on returning to Britain "it was like coming back to a new house". They sold their previous home for £95,000 and were happy in their Thirties home until a job offer for Brian, coupled with his daughter's dyslexia diagnosis, prompted a move to London.

They let their house to yachtsman Chay Blythe and rented first in the Barbican and then in Bayswater to be near to a particular school. In 1990 Starcrossed was valued at £320,000 and they rejected an offer of £260,000.

Three years later they decided to buy a Victorian semi in Kew: "We took out a big mortgage of £270,000." They eventually sold Starcrossed in 1994 for £250,000 and, after installing an Aga and landscaping the garden, sold the Kew house in 1997 for £480,000.

Brian then fulfilled one of his childhood dreams: "I'd always wanted to live in a detached house and be a millionaire." He bought a detached Victorian seven-bedroom house with a 100ft walled garden which was on the market at £600,000 - until "the guy put it up to £650,000 overnight". They paid this price and have spent £250,000 improving this house, which now has four bathrooms and a value of £1.8m, fulfilling Brian's second dream.

Now that their children have left home they are preparing to downsize. Brian looked at Berkeley development Barnes Waterside, where a townhouse was for sale at £360,000 but which they rejected: "Pauline thought the market was going down, but those houses now sell for around £600,000."

Having seen the high quality of properties at St James Park, he heard a rumour that St James was about to build at Kew, which local agent Antony Roberts confirmed. In August he bought an off-plan, 2,370sq ft detached townhouse for his retirement.

"It's a new concept and has a swimming pool and a gym. You couldn't see much from the plans, but I got the pick of the bunch. The most important thing is the location - and property prices in Kew don't ever go down much." Mr Roberts says: "There was an element of risk. But he's selected a particularly nice unit and will already have seen some return."

Those moves in brief 1975: bought first house for £15,000, sold for £16,000. 1976: bought Petersfield house for £16,000, sold for £25,000. 1979: bought four-bed house for £38,000, sold for £55,000 in 1986. 1984: bought Starcrossed for £113,000, sold for £250,000. 1993: bought first Kew house for £315,000, sold for £480,000. 1997: bought seven-bedhouse for £650,000, now worth £1.8m. 2000: bought St James house at Kew Riverside for £1.2m.

Kew Riverside Marketing Suite, 020-8878 9140; Antony Roberts, 0208 940 9401.

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