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How we embraced renting: tips and tricks

This is a paid post in collaboration with Habito

Lots of people assume we are home owners, partly because we’re in ‘that stage of life’ and partly because our flat if filled with all of our own things, decorated to our taste and doesn’t feel like a temporary set up. Sadly the reality is we are still very much in the renters camp. When we first got married we had a very respectable lump of savings in the bank, always with the intention of buying somewhere. One year into married life we moved to London, fairly out of the blue and all at once buying a place of our own seemed totally out of reach. We’d only moved an hour down the M3 but house prices were suddenly triple the price we were used to! Not much over a year after moving to London I quit my job to go full time on my own business and needless to say our savings to a huge hit for all the start up costs and the first 5 months of not really earning a penny! Our pals started getting on the property ladder via shared ownership schemes which would have previously been in our reach but sadly not with our depleted savings. I guess you could say that my business is the reason why we aren’t home owners and yet we wouldn’t change it, seeing how it’s grown and meant that I can work flexibly as a Mum.

Renting isn’t the end of the world, made so much better because we love our flat and the area it’s in. We moved to Shepherd’s Bush to be part of a new church plant. Nick was the intern for two years and we were both so excited about the vision for the church that we were eager to get here. We didn’t pick the area ourselves as that’s just where the church happened to be and the community it was intended to reach but we’ve ended up growing so fond of the area. It’s a diverse place to live in terms of cultures, classes and ethnicities which feels like a much better representation of our world than where we’d been living before. There are iconic pockets like the BBC Television Centre, Shepherd’s Bush Academy, Goldhawk Road Fabric shops and Shepherd’s Bush Market (where Only Fools And Horses market scenes were filmed, classic). The hustle and bustle of Uxbridge Road brings you authentic cuisines from around the globe and there’s an abundance of leafy parks, perfect for getting your fill of greenery and ideal for kids.

We moved from a Victorian terraced flat into a new build block with a somewhat Scandi vibe, a total contrast but we love it! The natural light, the two story windows, the open mezzanine space for me to have as my studio and the novelty of having two floors in a London flat gives us all the feels. Something so simple but makes the whole place feel much more spacious and liveable with work and kids!

We keep our eyes open for shared ownership options in our area, particularly in our own block of flats as we’d actually save so much money in mortgage repayments compared to the amount we spend in rent right now. Yet, a big part of me has always felt totally overwhelmed at the whole process of becoming home owners, starting with getting a mortgage! I’m nearly 32 and yet it feels way too grown up for me to dabble in such things! We’ve watched so many friends buy places and the whole thing seems like such confusing work, not to mention long and drawn out but I particularly wonder where on earth we’d start with finding a mortgage. It’s crazy that 62% of a people with a mortgage experienced anxiety and stress while applying for that mortgage. With Habito approaching me to tell me about their free online mortgage services, I was wishing I’d been able to recommend them to all my now home owner pals when they were in the throws of things but also storing this gem in my back pocket for when/if the occasion might arise for us.

Habito is a free mortgage broker that does all the work online, using technology to search the entire market about 20,000 products from 90,000 lenders which sounds like a mind boggling amount to me! Keeping it online means it’s super speedy and convenient. I’m talking Saturday morning chillaxing in your PJs on the sofa kind of easy. All the info can go straight to your phone if you want and then once a match is found you’ll receive qualified jargon-free advice from their online mortgage brokers and will handle everything with your chosen lender. The mortgage experts are available online until 9pm all week, so no need to try and carve out time in your busy working day, something I used to struggle with. Looking into Habito has taken the fear and dread out of me…suddenly it seems so much less confusing. Apparently 55% of all UK homeowners with a mortgage could save £3,500 a year by switching their mortgage so how great to know you’d be getting the best fit for you! With research carried out by Habito this month, finding that almost half – 44% – of buyers aged 18-34 had to make an offer on more than one property before being accepted, with 17% of Londoners making offers on 3 or more homes before finally being accepted, I’d say it’s pretty fabulous if you can at least take the uncertainty and hassle out of finding the right mortgage and leave the bulk of your energy for the adventure of finding the right home.

While we wait and hope that one day we might get on the property ladder, I’ve been learning how to make a rented house a home and there really are so many ways you can personalise a space without painting, knocking down walls or uprooting floors.

A neutral starting point

It’s very rare that you’ll find a place that’s been decorated to your exact tastes on the rented market which is why we’ve always searched for places with neutral walls, ideally greys or off whites (warning: you may need to sift through A LOT of dated magnolia). If you have a neutral base it becomes so much easier to add your own stamp with furniture, soft furnishing and decorative objects and you work your desired colour palette through those things instead of the walls. If you rent a place with dark burgundy walls in one room and lime green in another you ain’t going to be able to change the look or colour thrust with furniture and accessories, I promise you!

Conceal the nasties

Oh how I’ve longed for beautiful, restored floorboards or parquet flooring running through any of our rented homes but alas that hasn’t been the case. Thankfully our latest flat at least has fairly inoffensive laminate flooring but our previous one had the weirdest thin, sand coloured carpets, almost like hessian stapled to the floor! If you have a similar flooring woe then invest in a really large rug to cover the majority of the unsightly area. Rugs can be pricey but it will be worth it when it changes the whole look and feel of a space, I promise. Be sensible though, pick a rug that is either a colour or pattern that will lend itself to wear and tear along with potential spillages. I love jute rugs or weaves with a few different colours in…hides a multitude of sins! By settling the rug underneath furniture (sofas, coffee tables etc) it will feel much more of a part of the room.

Decorate your walls

It differs between landlords as to how much you can actually change your rented space. Some are even happy for you to paint walls if you paint over it once you leave! Lots of landlords can be really funny about picture hooks and nails in the wall but some are much more lenient like ours. We have a lot of white walls with high ceilings so filling the space with gallery walls, shelves and hanging plants has been a big part of making our flat feel like home rather than a cold uninhabited space. Check what the state of play is with your landlord as they may be happy if you’re willing to fill any holes when you leave. If you need to avoid holes then you can use picture strips to stick frames on the wall. We actually used these for both our gallery walls in the living room and I can happily report they’ve stayed perfectly still, no shock accidents at all! If you have white walls you can also buy relatively small stick on hooks, the kind where you can pull a tab to release them from the wall when you no longer need them. We already had picture ledges in the flat when we moved in so we’ve also made use of them for extra stacked art prints. Don’t forget large framed art can also look lovely leant against walls, perhaps overlapping with others for a cool, casual vibe.

Live like a hacker

When you’re renting it may seem extravagant to really invest too much in furniture pieces when you could be in a position to buy at some point and potentially have to start again to fit the new space. Why not buy from inexpensive places like Ikea or even from second hand furniture shops or gumtree and scroll Pinterest for some hack inspiration! We’ve frequently attached new handles to drawers to give them a new lease of life and a totally different look but the same can be done with bed headboards or reupholstering an armchair etc. There are so many step by step guides out there to help you out.

Make a statement

Too many people underestimate the impact of a statement lampshade when in actual fact it’s a temporary way of transforming a room and creating a focal point. Try something a little unusual or just a lampshade that ties the whole look of a room together. It sounds totally insignificant but I promise it makes a big difference. Sadly we only have one room in our flat with a hanging fitting otherwise I’d really go to town in each and every room.

So there you have my top tips while you’re living the renting life, whether buying seems a long way off or you’re stuck renting in limbo. When you are to get on the property ladder than make your life a little easier with Habito because finding a mortgage shouldn’t have to be an added stress in the process.

Habito will be running a competition on their Instagram account for a chance for you and a friend to win £300 each to put towards your mortgage or home improvements this month! Ummm…yes please! Head to their Instagram page and give them a follow for updates on the competition.

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Hi, I’m Teri and welcome to my own creative corner of the internet. I blog about interiors, DIY projects, design inspiration and my general life so stick around have a read and say hi.

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