Stepping Stones

One Couple's Property Story
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The Independent Online

Kim and Barry Nuttall bought their first house back in 1985, shortly after marrying. "It wasn't pleasant to live in but it was all we could afford," says Kim. They paid £62,500 for the four-bedroomed, detached 1920s house near Chelmsford, Essex, which needed substantial work. Barry could see the house's potential but Kim wasn't convinced: "I couldn't see it. I was naive, I suppose."

Kim and Barry Nuttall bought their first house back in 1985, shortly after marrying. "It wasn't pleasant to live in but it was all we could afford," says Kim. They paid £62,500 for the four-bedroomed, detached 1920s house near Chelmsford, Essex, which needed substantial work. Barry could see the house's potential but Kim wasn't convinced: "I couldn't see it. I was naive, I suppose."

The pair quickly transformed the house with the help of a long-standing builder friend, installing a new kitchen and bathroom and replacing the garage with a playroom. Four years later "the house looked beautiful", and had a value of £185,000 prompting the couple - by now with three children - to look around. They found a 1930s four-bedroom house on the market at £265,000 but disagreed over whether to buy: "It had 1950s-era central heating and I thought, 'I can't go through that again'."

There was another problem: "The owner, an old lady, was selling a large chunk of the three-quarters of an acre garden separately, and I was worried builders might develop it."

The couple decided against the purchase and removed their house from the market. In 1991, when they finally decided to sell, their property had fallen in value to £145,000, but there were compensations: "The house we'd seen earlier was still for sale, but at £190,000 - including all the land." Having viewed 13 houses in one weekend without success, they snapped it up, but Kim empathises: "I felt sorry for the old lady as she'd banked on that money for her pension."

Again the couple started renovating: "I decided to have the rewiring and plumbing done at the same time. It was two weeks of hell." After adding two extensions the family, now with four children, had a "good-sized house" and garden.

Seven years on they had itchy feet: "I'd had enough of the heavy beams along the ceilings, and the plate racks. It seemed oppressive and we had tired of keeping up the garden." Their dissatisfaction went further: "We started to think we'd had enough of this lifestyle, so we decided to sell our business and house and move to Australia."

They family went on holiday to see if they liked it: "Everything was so cheap. You could get a five-bedroomed house with swimming pool for £100,000." The houses were tempting, but the distance from their families in England wasn't. "I thought, 'I just can't do this'," says Kim.

On their return they sold their business and house anyway, and while they searched for a new home tried, but failed, to rent. "With four children and two Alsatians it was impossible," says Kim, who instead bought a three-bedroom Wimpey home for £86,000. They were there just three weeks before they found their ideal home, but lost £6,000 on their Wimpey home's sale.

The couple bought a brand-new, five-bedroomed detached house for £310,000 on Countryside development The Stowe, at Braintree in Essex. What attracted them? "It's so well designed. It's got a massive bay reading window at the front, and a fantastic family room off the kitchen where we can all be together. I think that's what the designers had in mind and it definitely works."

Having "breathed life into the bedrooms" by painting them, Kim appreciates not having to tackle further renovation: "It's been a big relief." The room sizes and special features have convinced her that new houses are not "boxy and characterless", as she had previously thought.

Kim was worried about new homes falling in value as their Wimpey home had, but, following a recent valuation, the house has just gone on the market at £359,995, proving her wrong. After spotting "the sort of house we've always wanted" for sale, a 16th-century house with one and a half acres of land, the couple plan a business venture there and will inevitably face more renovation. Any regrets? "No - we've had a lovely rest here, but it's time to get out and do something. It gets to be a way of life."

Those moves in brief

1985: bought 1920s house for £62,500, sold for £145,000.

1991: bought 1930s house for £190,000, sold for £370,000.

1999: bought Wimpey home for £86,000, sold for £80,000 three weeks later.

1999: bought new house for £310,000, now worth £359,995.

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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