Tuesday, 16 October 2007

Renting dreams, home owning nightmares.

I’ve never been on a diet. My yo-yo fasting/feasting friend claims that whenever she’s skimping, she dreams constantly of chocolate, doughy carbs, and butter.

The forbidden or impossible grows ever more alluring. I can’t afford to buy a house, but there are many reasons why I want to: the illusion of security, gaining control, even holding a stake not just in property, but in my own life. No landlord as capricious puppet master to my world would be liberating.

Renting is deeply uncertain. After six months, will the overlord of my destiny renew the lease, or sell up underneath me? Owners might raise the rent on a whim, because they can. Most choose not to, preferring continuity and a large financial return over many years; even so, you never know.

If ever I am depressed about my situation, I remember a sign outside a pub along the road from Dovecot Towers. A company advertises Insolvency Relief for mortgage defaulters. They buy property from owners teetering on insolvency, then rent it back, stalling bankruptcy, and disgrace. Such a marvellous business opportunity; garnering profit from misery, at a terrible loss to the homeless former owners.

But I still want to own a home. To be responsible for my own actions, not wondering what the landlord will think if I redecorate, or if my behaviour will lead to a negative reference. I want to feel my space is really mine. One owner filled my flat with unwanted knick-knacks, using my precious space for storage, while another moved in unwanted tenants. Not being obliged to tolerate their lord and master’s outré taste in vintage soft furnishings would be a blessing for many.

Feeling like a loser is poor motivation, but a strong one. Many of my friends are way beyond home purchase chatter, having entered a world of loft extensions, renovations, and relocating to the country. Occasionally, I would like to join in.

A think tank recently claimed that if prices are reasonable, renting can be economically viable. This is crystal metheconomics: property is a means of saving. If you don’t own your home, money is flowing down the drain. When in my dotage, I am faced with selecting a cheap nursing home, or paying for decent care, I will have nothing to sell.

This government encourages both employment ‘flexibility’ and home ownership, providing employers with a vanquished and obedient workforce. Struggling mortgagees are stigmatised as ‘sub prime’, i.e. subhuman, when they are simply vulnerable, desperate folk punished for swallowing and then choking on the lie they were fed.

Poor people commit to mortgages eight times their meagre annual income. They are not drunk with greed; they simply want to own the house they live in. It’s Dickensian: crushed, they exist on gruel (cheap frozen pizzas), dress in rags (2nd hand Primark), with no winter heating. Chronic illness propels them towards homelessness, as does having children. They are worried to the point of collapse, damaged, scared, and hungry. But at least they own some property (well, on paper anyway.)

All of this true, I know. Why then do I still dream of owning my own home?


Stray said...

Great post rentergirl ... popped over from Post of the Week.

I have found, I think, a sort of middle ground. I have made a habit of renting places which are, for some reason, difficult to let. Generally I take on places which are in desperate need of some TLC.

The treehouse I currently live in is a 1963 modernist-on-a-scout-hut-budget building, 50% glass, single glazed, no heating bar a woodburner. No mod cons, amazing views, huge garden. Cheap rent, absent landlord, lots of freedom.

The previous place was a loft apartment on the river in london, in the first warehouse to be converted into living space in the UK. The rest of the spaces (2000 sq ft of mostly open plan) were changing hands for a million pounds upwards. Our owners had bought cheap in the late 60s and moved to the states. They had no budget to do it up, so we rolled up our sleeves and invited friends round with emulsion and rollers.

I could never in a million years buy the houses I rent. Never. I would have to be earning ten times what I do, and have a deposit it would take me a life time to save up. My current house was sold to a developer for 3 million because of the 3 acre plot of land it sits on!

But ... in 2 weeks time I am changing it all. Moving in to a nice house for the first time. A gorgeous barn conversion, the owner lives in the other half of the building, and his questions about whether my dog would go upstairs made me prickle.

Renting unfurnished makes a big difference - to the sense of having control, and not living with other people's junk. My own junk is ok, of course.

I think some of us just know that we're not ready to tie ourselves to a grotty 2 bed flat in a part of a city we don't really want to live in. I think I knew I hadn't found my place to 'be' yet.


RenterGirl said...

Thanks for reading. I wish my otions were as interesting!

bob said...

Congratulations! You've been selected as this week's Post of the Week.

As a winner, we'd love for you to help judge next week. Details can found here.

Again, congrats!