Stepping Stones

One Woman's Property Story
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The Independent Online

Shaaron Petgrave has bought three properties over the years, her first when she was just 22: "I was the last person you could imagine buying. Then a friend got engaged to a guy who was a mortgage broker and was getting everyone he knew onto the property ladder."

Shaaron Petgrave has bought three properties over the years, her first when she was just 22: "I was the last person you could imagine buying. Then a friend got engaged to a guy who was a mortgage broker and was getting everyone he knew onto the property ladder."

In 1984 Shaaron paid £18,000 for a three-bedroom Victorian maisonette in Clapham, where she had her first child. Having left her fine arts foundation course, Shaaron turned her creativity onto her flat: "I spent every waking minute on it. It was a real labour of love," she says.

Bitten by the moving bug, four years later Shaaron decided to sell the flat which, thanks to its condition and location, fetched £98,000. Armed with around £70,000 profit after legal bills, she made a brave move: "I put the whole lot down, took out a huge mortgage and bought an eight-bedroomed wreck in Streatham for £220,000."

But, Shaaron admits, being "young and not that responsible" she got a nasty shock: "I went from my lovely flat, where I was so secure and virtually mortgage-free, to having a huge mortgage - and then the market just went kaput." She rented out part of her house to tenants but the rental income couldn't keep pace with mortgage costs: "Rates tripled but the rent stayed the same. I was in a right mess but I desperately didn't want to lose the house."

Shaaron had also bought a restaurant which was struggling. Eventually her building society threatened legal action and she grew more desperate: "Then I had a brainwave." The house, with its ornate coving and wooden panelling, reminded her of a private school she had once visited.

Taking advice from her mother, who was a teacher, Shaaron made the decision to turn her house into a nursery. But such a move wasn't without risk: "I had to get rid of the tenants so that we could live in the top of the house, which meant lost income."

Happily the move paid off: "As soon as we put the sign up we were full, it turned out to be very successful." Shaaron enjoyed the perks of living above her work: "I was so grateful to have a roof over our heads and it was great being so close to work."

By now she had two daughters and the nursery was a great success, but she then had some unexpected news: "I found out that I was expecting twins." There was ample space in the three-storey house although Shaaron found the prospect of living there with four children, and with just weekend use of the garden, daunting.

After having the twins she searched for another house: "I then discovered I was pregnant again so the search was urgent." Shaaron had nothing to sell and the poor state of the market this time worked in her favour: "For once I bought at the right time."

In 1995 she paid £127,000 for an Edwardian six-bedroomed terraced house in Balham which had no central heating and which, over the years, she has lovingly restored: "I secretly wish I'd done interior design." Her home's value has increased to £475,000 and the huge house in Streatham, which is totally devoted to the nursery, is now worth around £495,000.

With properties totalling almost £1m, Shaaron looks back: "Really it was all because of my friend's mortgage broker boyfriend. Buying then was the best thing I ever did." The process was, however, a big gamble: "I took a huge risk and clung on for dear life but it's paid off."

Those moves in brief

1984: bought Clapham flat for £18,000, sold for £98,000.

1988: bought huge Streatham house for £220,000, now worth £495,000.

1995: bought Balham house for £127,000, now worth £475,000.

* 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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