Stepping Stones: One Couple's Property Story

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The Independent Online

Philippa King bought her first flat back in 1985: "I'd been working in London and commuting from outside, but I didn't want to rent; it seemed like throwing good money after bad, and I wanted to live by myself."

Philippa King bought her first flat back in 1985: "I'd been working in London and commuting from outside, but I didn't want to rent; it seemed like throwing good money after bad, and I wanted to live by myself."

On leaving her first job she got a lump sum - "that was my deposit" - and began her search: "Everyone was saying 'south of the river, south of the river'. I didn't have a clue where I wanted to live but I ended up in north London, thankfully." Philippa paid £28,000 for her first-floor, one-bedroom property in Highbury, which she thought was "good value" as the market was then rising.

The flat was in a lovely, wide road and had period fireplaces, but its decoration was lacking: "The previous owner had seemingly learned his decorating techniques from a book and had put in partitions with frosted glass along the top!" Philippa quickly removed the partitions, decorated throughout, and was happy there until 1988 when she decided she should "move up a bit".

She sold for £62,000, and for £65,000 bought a larger one-bedroomed property just minutes away in Stoke Newington. "It was much more substantial and had front and back entrances." Again she redecorated, with the help of her Dad. "I've learned from him and I'm quite a good painter and decorator." She lived there until 1991 when she got married to Stephen, who was in the army, and then rented out her flat.

Philippa describes the transition from home ownership to army quarters: "Our first house was in Wiltshire, and like all army houses, was painted army blue, army pink and army green. It was horrible." The couple were allowed to redecorate in neutral colours and Philippa tolerated friends' teasing when she made her own curtains to replace "the thin army ones. I wanted to make my own mark on the house."

Six years later, Stephen left the forces and the couple scoured the country for a home of their own. After viewing 20 houses in three days they finally found just what they were looking for, Holgate House, in Ticehurst, Sussex. They paid £157,000 for what Philippa describes as "a lot of house".

At the time the four-storey property plus cellar was "a bit of a wreck", and Philippa and Stephen, a structural engineer, spent around £65,000 transforming the Victorian listed building, doing much of the work themselves. They removed a bathroom on the ground floor, knocking through the kitchen and breakfast room to create a large family room.

Five years ago Philippa says she considered selling her flat, which was valued at £65,000, but after getting little response she held on and instead decided to refurbish it at a cost of around £10,000. Earlier this year she finally sold, just before the market slowed down, for £132,000: "For once in my life my timing was right."

The couple have decided to sell their charming house, which has ample space for them both to work from home, but having two young daughters they would like more outdoor space. "The small, but very pretty, walled courtyard garden has its limitations."

Having spotted an empty property nearby, which they hope to renovate, the couple are keen for a quick sale at £295,000: "We had a valuation of £320,000 from a 'posh agent', but decided to go for what we hope is a realistic price that will get things moving fast."

Holgate House is for sale through Adams & Partners Limited, who can be contacted on 01580 890110.

Those moves in brief

1985: bought Highbury flat for £28,000, sold for £62,000.

1988: bought Stoke Newington flat for £65,000, sold for £132,000 in 2000.

1997: bought Holgate House in Ticehurst for £157,000, now worth £295,000.

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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