How to ditch renters’ shame

Kat Nicholls
By Kat Nicholls,
updated on Nov 15, 2020

How to ditch renters’ shame

Home ownership is considered the holy grail for many, but those of us who choose to rent instead have no need to feel guilty

Recently my partner and I celebrated signing our tenancy agreement, meaning we can stay in our rented flat for another 18 months. We’ve been here for 18 months already, and love the home we’ve made for ourselves.

Both in our early 30s, being so settled in rented accommodation feels a little controversial. Many of our friends are on their second houses, upsizing to make room for kids, and spending weekends doing DIY. Conversations about house prices pass us by and, in all honesty, it can feel alienating.

There is a distinct pressure from both society and our families to get on the property ladder. And while this is something we would like to do one day, it’s hard not to feel rushed and even ashamed of the fact that we still rent.

It turns out, we’re not alone. An Instagram post from @howirent_, run by home-improvement blogger and proud renter Medina Grillo, brought up the subject of renter’s shame. More than 100 people commented, sharing their experiences, and why they love to rent despite the pressure to own.

Looking at recent statistics from the Property Reporter website, more of us are opting to rent than buy. According to the survey, almost one in four Brits don’t want to continue investing in property, regardless of where they are on the ladder. Of those surveyed, 24% said finances are holding them back from investing, while more than one in 10 Baby Boomers say they’ve sold up and have no plans to buy again, thanks to the freedom and flexibility offered by renting.

And with the economical impact of the current pandemic, saving for a house deposit isn’t an option for a lot of people right now – with restricted incomes due to furlough or redundancies. Additionally, the number of mortgage lenders has drastically declined, and while pre-Covid first time buyers could use a 5% deposit, the majority of deals now require 10–15%.

So, why do we still feel ashamed to rent?

Blogger Medina Grillo tells me: “Getting on to the property ladder in this country is everything. It’s seen as a sort of rite of passage to a higher status in life. A sign of success. It’s also a natural expectation, once you’ve found yourself a decent-paying job and a forever partner. And that expectation can come from different sources – parents, grandparents, friends, and even social media.”

Medina makes an excellent point about social media contributing to the pressure to own. With visual platforms such as Instagram and Pinterest packed with interior design inspiration, it’s hard not to compare.

“We are now getting insight into other people’s lives 24 hours a day,” says Medina. “When you think ‘home’, you automatically think of interior design. You follow these accounts and see most of them own their homes and are renovating. And even though that content doesn’t relate to you, you still think: ‘Wow, I wish I had my own home too.’”

It’s true. With rental properties, interior design often comes with restrictions and caveats from your landlord. Not being able to put your own stamp on your home can feel restrictive, and makes it difficult for you to relate to others.

But the argument I hear most in the renter vs homeowner debate is the financial implications. I’m told I’m ‘throwing money away’. Home ownership is considered an investment, renting is seen as frivolous.

And while I don’t disagree that owning property is an investment, I do disagree that renting is frivolous. For many of us, the possibility of buying in the town we rent in is simply not feasible financially. We pay for the location, the lifestyle, and the ability to easily pack up and move.

You are pouring love into a property that isn’t yours because you recognise the power that having a beautiful home has on your mind

How can we overcome renter’s shame?

When I ask Medina this question, she tells me how important it is to go easy on ourselves, and not compare.

“Everyone’s financial and personal situations are different. No one starts on the same level playing field when it comes to buying a house.”

She says that in many countries, renting is the norm, and focusing on what you’re achieving is key.

“You are able to pay for a roof over your head, month after month! You are pouring love into a property that isn’t yours because you recognise the power that having a beautiful home has on your mind.”

The impact that living somewhere you love has on wellbeing shouldn’t be underestimated. Researchers from Stirling University, Scotland, in partnership with Dr Lisa Garnham from the Glasgow Centre for Population Health, found that feeling at home in a rented property can result in reduced health inequalities.

Perhaps embracing the benefits of renting is another way we can shake off any shame we may feel as renters. Medina explains that one of the biggest benefits is not having to spend money on expensive repairs like plumbing. Another benefit, she says, is the flexibility it offers.

“Just think, you have the freedom to live in any area or country that you choose. Sometimes it’s difficult to buy a house in your dream location, so in those cases it might be easier to rent. This helps a lot if you are looking to get your child into a certain school, for example.

“And if you don’t like the area (or the house you’ve chosen) you can always move! I had a really bad experience with one of my neighbours in my last rented home, so being able to relocate was a blessing!”

Making a rented house a home

While there can be challenges and restrictions when it comes to decorating a rented space, this doesn’t mean you can’t get creative. Speaking to your landlord first about what’s OK, and what’s not, should be a priority – some are perfectly fine with you painting, for example, as long as you repaint back to the original colour before you leave.

My partner and I love our lifestyle, and the flexibility renting offers. Our home is certainly not perfect, and there are times when I wish I owned my own place – usually when I’m frantically texting my landlord about our leaky tap.

But, at the end of the day, renting is working for us. And, truthfully? We simply cannot afford to buy a house, and we won’t be pressured into making any big financial investments until we’re ready. Now, someone please pass me the adhesive strips…

Medina’s top DIY tips for renters:

Medina’s book, Home Sweet Rented Home, is full of advice for renters who want to inject their personal style into their space. Here are her top tips to get started.

  1. Replace kitchen cabinet handles or knobs with more stylish ones.

  2. Use contact adhesive strips to hang picture frames (or other decorative items, like hats or baskets) on the wall without worrying about damage.

  3. Buy large rugs to cover flooring you want to hide. Patterned rugs are great for adding colour and drama to a bare room.

For more rental home design inspiration, follow Medina’s personal account on Instagram @grillodesigns and her video home tours account, @howirent_

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