To own or to rent

As it’s a new year, it seems appropriate to write a new blog post. My first in a while, actually.

My absence from the blogosphere is mainly a result of becoming a homeowner for the first time. Yes, I’ve finally achieved that Great British aspiration of owning bricks and mortar, I’m sure David Cameron is thrilled.

Unlike most, I’m a big advocate of the private rented sector and didn’t rush into the expense, restriction and responsibility of owner occupation.

For 10 years, I’ve lived in the PRS, first in student housing, then young professional shared housing, then non-shared. I’ve been fortunate to have an awesome landlord, and I mean really awesome. He sent us Christmas cards, reduced the rent when times were hard, replaced our broken boiler in one working day, let us decorate, didn’t charge fees, never increased the rent, provided furniture, gave us a rolling tenancy that lasted 6 years in the end. The list goes on.

This is how renting should be and both private and social landlords could learn a lot from my old landlord. If renting did look like this for the majority, perhaps I wouldn’t have been told about a 1000 times that rent is dead money. I was always happy to pay for the lack of repair responsibility and flexibility to move if needed. Besides, isn’t mortgage interest dead money or am I missing something?!

And finding a house to rent was so much easier than finding one to buy. This may come as a shock to those in the south, but there are some very desirable parts of Sheffield and property gets snapped up. Over the last 12 months, we’ve endured 20+ viewings, using our allotted 15 minutes to decide if we should spend our life savings, before the next of about 20 others came to do the same thing. We’ve offered over the asking price, sometimes by a £1000, sometimes £2000, one time a lot more, only to be out bid.

Meanwhile, friends of ours that had bought a couple of years earlier were enjoying the rising house prices and recalling how it wasn’t that competitive when they were buying. It was very tempting to give up the search or settle for whatever we could get our hands on, just so the ordeal would be over and we could finally say this woodchip wallpaper is all ours.

But we held out and got what we were looking for, albeit we had to offer over the asking price. But being a home owner isn’t enough is it? We have to be the owner of a perfect home, so despite many conversations that we would make do with the current tired decor and steadily improve one room at a time, we’ve spent the last three months pulling down a wall, replacing a roof, plastering and fitting a new kitchen. I was so happy the day we had a functioning kitchen sink and the days of doing the washing up in the bathroom sink were over!

I’m so grateful for everything our landlord did for us, renting from him gave us time to save up a 15% deposit and not rely on Government schemes, the bank of Dad or having to stretch ourselves to buy with a 5% deposit and be burdened with a huge monthly mortgage repayment. I know others are in a very different boat though. Wouldn’t it be great if the Government focused on providing a housing market that provides the different solutions we need during the different phases of our lives, rather than just pushing people to burden themselves with home ownership as quickly as possible?

Anyway, I’ve got woodchip to strip :)




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