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home sweet home, even if you're renting

It's still the Australian dream, but for many of us living in places like Sydney, owning our own home is still a little out of reach for now.  Some of us might own property yet choose to rent it out, while renting another place for themselves.  Others are on the seemingly perpetual saving wheel, squirreling away as much as they can week by week to build up an acceptable deposit.  Even with interest rates at an all time low, there are many middle income, double income couples, professionals (not to mention the lower income and students) living in the big smoke still having to rent because buying, for now anyway, just isn't an option.  

Understanding that purchasing property is a long term goal helps one to accept renting for the short term and allows time to to plan ahead, learn to budget, build up a good credit history and research how it all works (check out the very in-depth Select Encompass home buyer's guide here).

But, while you save, strategize and sleuth the market you still have to live somewhere, and not everyone has parents with a granny flat...

So while it might feel like a compromise to some, renting enables you to live independently of family, have a space your own (kinda), experience paying a large sum regularly to keep said roof over your head (see it as practising paying off a mortgage).   Whether it is rented or partially owned by a financial institution, it is important to have a sense of home, wherever that may be.  However as a renter this can be hard.... There is the residue from the previous residents, such as holes in the walls, unrecognisable stains in the carpet, cracks in the tiles and broken lino, marks on the walls.... Not all rentals have these, but you get the idea.

So how does one nest and make a space their own if they can’t renovate to their little heart’s content?
Depending on how long you plan to stay at a place, one can often negotiate some little bits of renovation.

  • Things such as painting the walls, requesting a new built-in wardrobe, or new blinds can all give a property a fresh boost. Some people even manage to negotiate getting new carpet as part of entering into a rental agreement.
  • The longer you stay somewhere, (provided you are a good tennant and you have a relatively understanding property owner), the better.  For the owners, if you put in a request to freshen up their property, it helps to demonstrate you are looking after and maintaining the property.  For you it gives you a sense of (feigned) ownership, a connection with the place, as you make your mark and create a space you feel at home in.
  • Any improvements to the rental property is tax deductable for the owner, so often they will be more accommodating that you think!
  • Ask if the owner will pay for the cost of paint if you provide the labour – nothing like a fresh lick of paint.  Win win for both parties.  
  • Next time your rent goes up, ask for something to be updated.

Investing some time and energy into your home, regardless of whether it’s a rental is worth it, as it will improve your quality of life and happiness. And nothing beats walking into your front door and feeling at home and welcomed straight away.