Living in rented accommodation repeatedly throws up the dilemma of when and on what you should spend money on making your house into a home. In the UK, home owning has become such a staple of our culture since the 1980’s, that the idea of a rental ever being a proper home is anathema to some.
However we’re in the era of Generation Rent now. It’s time to rethink. Hopefully some government or other will catch up with reality at some point and improve renters rights, but until then we tenants have to put up with what we can get.
If you’re lucky enough to find a UK landlord who will let you decorate and make home improvements, then you have to decide how much you’re willing to invest in a property that you’ll likely never own outright. A lot of this is admittedly philosophical and everyone has their own views on property, ownership, mortgages and inheritance, so I won’t dwell on all that in this article!
Josh and I will probably never own, and certainly not within the next 30 years or so. We’re also very likely to stay in our current flat (seen above) for a long time, so we feel that spending money on making our home a pleasant place to be is worth it. We don’t have to live like students forever just because we rent. That said, we think carefully before spending money, taking the following points into consideration:
1. Can we take our investment with us when we move?
This obviously applies to furniture, lamps and so on and, as I’ve mentioned before, filling your home with furniture that you love will go most of the way to making it feel like your own.
However it’s surprising how even the most integrated items can transfer to new homes. Our built in shelving in the study/spare room for example
…was actually built for another room in a different house. Luckily we were able to move the whole thing into the flat, with only a little adjustment to make it fit the new space.
It’s also easy enough to change things like door handles without sinking money – just keep the old ones and put them back when you move out.
2. Can our investment be adapted or sold on, to recoup some of the costs?
Sometimes you have to spend money on things that are specific to your place. For example I had to custom make all the curtains in our flat, because the windows were so huge that nothing shop-bought would fit. Not having curtains was not an option, because the windows are single glazed and draughty – we froze that first winter before I’d finished making them. The fabric cost a lot of money due to the sheer quantity of it so, despite being home made, the curtains were a considerable investment.
In the hopes of recouping some of that cost one day, I made each curtain using the full widths of the fabric, so that it will be easy enough to unpick the seams and have metres and metres of good quality, usable cloth. We could then either sell it or use it to make up new curtains one day. We also chose a plain, elegant colour rather than anything too fashionable or easily dated. A small compromise, and not one I regret, as the curtains do work in every room.
3. Do we have to pay for it all ourselves?
As regular readers will know, our landlord is very open to contributing to projects that improve the flat. He paid for the materials when we landscaped the garden, and did all the labour when we had the bathroom and kitchen re-tiled (we paid for the tiles).
If there’s a case to be made for improvements that will increase the value of the property, see if you can make an arrangement with your landlord. Splitting costs or labour is a compromise, or there may be an argument for him or her to pay outright.
4. Sometimes it’s worth sucking it up
Some things are sunk costs, and those are the hardest things to decide on. You have to ask yourself how much your contentment with your home is worth .
We’ll take the hit on paint, but we’d almost certainly never buy wallpaper, as it involves so much more money and effort to install (and remove!). We have spent a lot of money on paint (and some rooms have been painted twice over as we were so desperate to get rid of the magnolia when we moved in that we rushed our colour decisions), but it’s useless to regret it, especially since I enjoy those colours every day.
How do you make your design decisions? Can you put a value on aesthetics? It’s all gone a bit philosophical this week!