Dave and I got married in 2007. At the time everyone in Northern Ireland was in a house-buying frenzy and we almost got caught up in the wind of that. We even went as far as putting a crazy offer on a little 2 up 2 down terraced house in a local housing estate. We withdrew our offer at the last minute in a moment of panic, and boy am I glad.
Those same houses are now worth less than half the price we were going to offer. In fact, it was on the news just last week that anyone who bought houses during the property ‘boom’ will never be out of negative equity. Which in non-estate-agent-grown-up-speak means the bank has got them by the goolies. Aside from the price, I could have missed out on my dream house!
So we’ve rented. This is now the third house we have rented since we got married, and I think with each place we have learned a bit more about what you can and should do to make a temporary house a home. I wanted to share a few of my ideas and lessons learned in the hope that if you are in a similar position, it helps you be more thrifty with the bricks and mortar you find yourself dwelling in for the time being.
1) Keep it neutral. I made the mistake of painting/wallpapering a lot in our first rental. I ended up getting bored and regretting it, but not feeling justified to re-do it because of the expense. I now appreciate the flexibility of a white or neutral wall colour and using that as a palette to play on with art, shelving etc. It’s likely your landlord will be OK with you painting a bit – so if you find a place that is plastered in bright colours, get the cheapest magnolia/white paint you can find and get to work! You’ll feel so much more at home when you do.
2) Shelves shelves shelves. When your accommodation is likely to change in the next 5 years, you don’t want to buy a whole host of furniture that might not fit in your next place, especially when it comes to storage. A great solution is inexpensive shelving. B&Q have really cheap shelves that are bare wood so can easily be painted to suit your room or space. I am a big fan of shelves, especially in the kitchen where you can display nice bits of crockery or prints etc. The only thing you need to consider is making holes in the walls. Some landlords will expect you to fill and cover the ones you make before the next tenant moves in…which again proves that keeping your walls white or neutral is key.
3) Look after the place. There must be nothing worse for a landlord than having a tenant that doesn’t care for their property. Make sure you regularly clean, keep a record of any damages, report any faulty appliances, and communicate well. We’re lucky to have had really attentive landlords in all our experiences, but I hope it’s because we have showed them and their property respect and not neglected anything.
1) Spend crazy amount of money on fitted things. Especially curtains. Windows are different in EVERY house – it’s very difficult to transfer curtains and drapes from place to place, so if you are going to buy some, buy ‘em cheap or second-hand. We have a massive bay window in our living room, and instead of curtains (which, for the size of the space, would cost a FORTUNE) I made some oversized bunting from scrap fabric and draped it across so it didn’t look so bare.
2) Invest too much in the outside. The likelyhood is that if you plant stuff in the garden, you won’t be bothered taking it with you to your next place. If you have green thumbs, a good alternative might be a mini urban veggie-garden in pots that you can easily transport from place to place.
3) Don’t be afraid to ask questions before you sign on the dotted line! Some good things to find out would be:
* Are the rates included?
* What appliances are included?
* What are the neighbours like?
* What is the best way to contact you?
* What are the average monthly bills for heat/oil, electric etc?
I’d like to think we won’t be renters forever, but for now, these are the things that have kept us feeling like we are at home.