An Introduction

It doesn’t matter who you are, expat or not, everyone wants to feel that they have a space that feels like home.  The Native and I will be married for five years this year and in that time, we have lived in three properties.  All rented.

We got here because, by most people’s standards, we are pretty strict about living within our means (which is a post for another day) and when we were planning our wedding, we paid for everything in cash.  Both sets of parents were supportive and helped financially along the way, which was and still is so appreciated, but the dress, the car, the flowers, the reception venue and food, the tuxes, the rings….the majority of that money came out of our pockets.  I’m proud of that.

That didn’t put us in a position to save. That was fine.  We naively expected, as I’m sure most of the rest of the Western world did, that when the time came, we would set a little bit of money aside as a down payment on a house and since we both had full-time jobs, we would easily get approved for a mortgage for our starter home.  And then September 2008 happened.  Freaking September 2008.  If you had a face, I’d punch you in it.

Three and a half years later we are in our third rented property and I have been in this ongoing struggle with finding a sense of home.  I struggle because I know that it could be one year, it could be five, but we’re not going to be here long-term.  The property isn’t ours.  It’s not worth renovating and making the changes we’d like to make to the house.  So, how much do we actually invest in the place?

I struggle because in order to get approved for a mortgage someone needs to die and leave us a big old lump of money or I need to apply for Deal or No Deal and try my luck.

What’s that Mr. Banker?  Your first offer is £10,000?  Deal!  I just used The Banker, Noel’s feathered hair and this 1990’s set to get a mortgage, suckas. 

Glorious.

And I struggle because I’m sure that we’d not only be able to buy a home in America, it would be a freaking mansion by British standards.

British house for £125,000 - The front yard. photo via: findaproperty.com

In America the equivalent of £125,000 in dollars is $196,000.  $196,000!   That kind of house would have closets that would be rooms here.  We’d have bathrooms coming out of our noses and other orifices I shouldn’t mention– two, three, maybe even four commodes compared to one (which can make things tricky when you have out of town guests).  Oh and we’d have more than two bedrooms.  Luxury.  But I’m only tempted by that in my more materialistic moments.

I know, I know – up until now it’s been a whiny western post about not owning my own house when there are people who live on garbage heaps.   I get that.  But understand that when you grow up in America where the American dream is completely built on working your way up so you can have your own slice of the land, the entitlement to own a home is as American as Clint Eastwood’s face.  You are bred into that sense of entitlement.  It’s hard to fight – I mean, it is Clint Eastwood’s face, after all.  But I do and I will strive for contentment even if we never have our own sweet piece of real estate.

And here’s one of the ways:

In posts to come, I’m going to write about how I’m making this place, our rental property, home, without throwing cash in the toilet.  I’m going to try to do things that I can take with me or adapt.  Whether you’re a renter or home-owner, free to add your tips on how you make your place home.  I need all of the help I can get.

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22 thoughts on “An Introduction

  1. scribblefingers

    My mom had the same issues while we were roaming around London, so I totally understand how you feel! After about 6 and a half years of moving to London, we finally put our paintings on the wall! That makes the white paint that generally comes in all rooms in rented houses/flats here not look so generic. Rugs always make a place feel homey to me – but it all depends on what you’ve grown up with I think. Rented places always seem to feel small too – we have our bookcases in the hallway because they take so much space out of a room! Hope you find a way to make your temporary adobe feel homey, but this earth is only our temporary home anyway, even if we do own our own place 🙂

    Reply
    1. Living Life as an Expat Parent Post author

      Definitely. It’s more about just having a space that we can come into and go “aaaaah, this is where I want to be.” And I’m sure our rental prices here have jack squat on London! We certainly need to do something about these white walls. Thanks for empathizing, coming from a family of renters, rather than telling me off! Appreciate it. 🙂

      Reply
  2. Deborah

    If it makes you feel any better (which it probably won’t), that Texas home you posted would cost way more up in the Cleveland area, I’m guessing high two’s to threes at a minimum, probably even more like mid threes. I would say the same for many houses in Cinci area especially since its all brick. Sorry no good suggestions about homeyness… scribblefingers ideas sounded good though! 🙂

    Reply
    1. Living Life as an Expat Parent Post author

      Yeah, Texas has crazy cheap real estate. What’s that about? It’s not all bad being a renter. I’d love to have a place that our children really feel is a home to them when they are growing up. But I think I’m also learning to be ok if owning a home is not ever a choice for us. I think that is the biggest tip I need.

      Reply
  3. Stacey

    Paint and pictures. Even when I rented I would paint when I moved in (some places make you repaint it white when you leave) because then it makes it my place, if just for a while. I think anything you can do that shows a house is lived in and cared for will make it a home. Just let a bit of your personality show so it doesn’t look staged 🙂
    As for major or convenient improvements if you’re going to rent the same place for a while you could always invest and have the owner split cost. My coworker just replaced her carpet in the apartment and the landlord gave her a month free.
    I had an assistant teacher who rented the same house for 20 years and never thought of buying. We’ve “owned” our house for almost 5 years now and honestly, I miss renting. We’ve even talked of selling and not buying again. There are trade offs to both.

    Reply
    1. Living Life as an Expat Parent Post author

      Good tips across the board! It is quite common in the rest of Europe to rent a place your whole life. As you say, pros and cons to both. It is just about adjusting my expectations. Sometimes I’m really good at that and sometimes I’m awful.

      Reply
  4. MsXpat

    Brilliant idea for a post. And I eagerly wait the follow-up, as hubby and rent and probably will do for several years to come. I totally believe in treating my home as my own doesn’t matter that I don’t own it. Our new home needs a bit of love its been badly treated in the past. So I look forward to hearing about your you are personalising your home :0)

    Reply
  5. therealmummy

    I’m in my first rented and I never planned to be in rented ever but pregnancy changes all that. The best thing I can do is lots of photos (I’d have a photo for every moment if I could) and definitely paint. Although its money spent on paint, it’s not much money and it let’s you put a bit of your own character into a place just by using some colour.

    Reply
  6. dillytante

    V interesting. We are serial renters due to finances. Loved last two flats. Don’t like current house though it has it’s benefits, one being a garden, second being its pretty long term. Have also been trying to make the place more like home. Maybe I’ll do a blog post & link up.

    Reply
  7. Charlie

    Sounds good – I am also a renter (moved house twice in under 6 months last year, that was not so much fun) and what you can do is very dependent on the whims of your landlord.

    Reply
    1. Living Life as an Expat Parent Post author

      Definitely true. Thankfully, our landlord is really happy for us to decorate, hang things and make the house our own (although we’ve failed to really do that yet). I know other renters aren’t so lucky. Hope your landlord is pretty understanding!

      Reply
  8. Lindsay Borland

    B, I echo your post! we are currently renting & trying to figure out where to buy … and are we ready to settle into Wellington or will we move in a year or 2? Starter homes (2-3 small bedrooms) not too far from the city start at about $400k here and are more likely to cost $450k AND due to the hills & city that may get you a tiny yard (although bigger than the one in your picture). Auckland is even more expensive … while this is SHOCKING to a girl from the Midwest i often need to remind myself I do live in the 2nd largest city in NZ and it is home to the our government & many businesses. so a more fair comparison in the states could be Washington DC or Boston … then the $450K makes a bit more sense, even though it is still hard to swallow! My only tip for making rented flats feel like home is to hang lots of personal things on the walls!!!

    Reply
  9. Pingback: 27-02-12 Love Lifestyle Weekly Showcase | Love All Blogs

  10. Rosie

    Firstly, you are doing lovely things to your rented house and it definitely feels more like your home now. We’ll be making notes and taking tips for ourselves 🙂

    Secondly, nobody wore a tux at your wedding.

    Reply
  11. Pingback: Making a House a Home: The Finer Details « Living Life as an Expat Parent

  12. Pingback: Making a House a Home: Bare Walls « Living Life as an Expat Parent

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