I am sick to the back teeth of these news stories you see, of smiling 23-year-olds in tabloids, who boast about managing to buy their own 200k four-bed house just a few years after hitting puberty. AREN’T THEY IMPRESSIVE? (Yep, buckle up for a rant!)
I’ve written about this before in the Huffington Post (Renting is not dead money). That for most people, homeownership in their 20’s is a fool’s errand. Renting when you’re young is a brilliant thing.
And then I saw this story on Twitter which irritated me. Some things before we move on – I have nothing against this woman. I am happy for her if she’s happy. It doesn’t even really matter what her story is – I have an issue with this general narrative papers push.
It’s the ‘it IS possible to own a family home in your 20’s – you’re just not doing enough’ vibe that makes me want to spit teeth. And I call BS on that.
The well-paying, full-time job in your early 20’s
There are two things that you’ll find all these stories have in common:
- They have a good full-time job (often it’s a couple with two jobs)
- They have to live with their parents and pay no, or minimal rent
There’s often a wealthy family behind them too, but I’m leaving that out as plenty of these storys brag about no help from their parents.
Let’s talk about the full-time job bit. As we all know, a full-time job isn’t a given these days. I personally hard the hardest time of it in my early 20’s, with redundancies and long term unemployment.
We all know this meme…
The living with mum and dad bit
I see it all the time now, people living with their mum and dad, all through their 20’s to save money. The WHOLE of their youth, they have lived with their mam and dad.
Their parents and grandparents were probably shacked up with two kids by 24, but it’s not that weird to see someone 33 living at home – saving up for a house these days.
OK – If you are someone who loves living with your parents – knock yourself out! But if you’re someone who is holding off on wanted independence, for this dream of owning a home, because renting is ‘dead money’ – have a rethink.
You can’t afford a house – sorry
You can’t afford it. Sorry. I’m going to explain why that’s not a bad thing in a bit, but I’m going to use Martin Lewis’ maths here – because it was never my strong point in school. I couldn’t do my eight times tables now with a gun to my head, even with years of my mum forcing me to recite them in frustration. Ah well!
For most young people, owning a home, especially if you don’t have big deposits from your parents or do not have a partner, is practically impossible. You can cut out all the avocado toast and coffee you like.
Check out the article for the full story, but the short version is – a very normal millenial (in London though!) records her spending for a month, then Martin Lewis decides where she can cut back to buy her first home.
Here are some interesting bits from the article:
One point he is firm, however: while it is possible to be approved for a mortgage with a deposit of only 5%, to be able to truly afford a properly I need at least 10%, ideally 20%. But that’s a very difficult amount to save when you’re already paying rent.
She then tells him what she earns (it’s decent!) and what the average price of a one-bed flat in South London costs (it’s a lot) and here’s what Martin Lewis said:
There you go! Piece is over. You won’t get a mortgage, full stop – I don’t care what you spend. It’s going to be virtually impossible for you.
I’m being a bit dramatic here – sure. I managed to get one (as a couple). There are also Government schemes to help you with your deposit – check out Bronni who added 10k to her deposit for free.
Why renting is good
Look, this isn’t totally a bad thing. You don’t have to do extreme things to buy a house young. Renting is good. Plus, you can save while renting.
And before you say, ‘Lotty – all well and good YOU saying that literally in the house you OWN’ and yeah, I bought a house at 31 – just!
I lived in a houseshare for eight years with my boyfriend. The rent we were paying was pretty low (well, it was ridiculous for one room in a big house – but an article about greedy landlords will come another day), so we did manage to save up a lot.
My boyfriend has always had a well-paid job – whereas I have moved around, been able to take risks, sometimes earn more/often earning nothing!
We also had help from our parents (don’t go thinking they’re super-rich and covered us – but there was help – which is not what everyone will get!).
In fact, the day after we signed for the house – I was made redundant. It was a week before my two year anniversary at the job, and they got rid of me before I had any real rights. I didn’t get anything out of it (which is why I started this blog really!)
Anyway, got a bit derailed there – renting at times SUCKED. Here are some highlights (or lowlights?)
- The time I thought I got TB because I was coughing up blood. Found out there was a load of mould down the side of the bed where my face was.
- The time we realised our housemate was throwing out my plates instead of washing them up.
- Ugly-tray-gate (I can’t even get into this right now, but a shelf in a kitchen and an UGLY – yes I said ugly if you’re reading – tray, sparked a year-long war).
- Worms started living on the ceiling and would drop on you now and then.
- Another housemate would walk around the house naked and drunk. Once I was invited me to join her and ‘the old man’ she had brought back home at 3 am. Reader, I locked the bedroom door and wondered what I had done in a past life to deserve this renting nightmare.
BUT – it was also SO much fun too. There were highs and lows – but if you think owning a home is all sunshine and rainbows, you couldn’t be more wrong.
Here are some of the things that prove renting isn’t dead money.
- You don’t have to live with your mum and dad. I could break this down more, but is that needed? Adults need to be in control of their own space.
- You LEARN important financial lessons. Bills, rent, fixing things – all that stuff. But also, getting someone to pay up for washing up liquid. Dealing with the consequences of someone moving out and you being responsible for those financial repercussions (ahem, tray-gate recall there). Calling up handymen/learning to give your landlord grief. These aren’t nice things, but they train you up to be financially resilient – for when you do own your own place.
- You don’t have to pay for things when they break. My boiler has cost me £2k in plumber fees so far and it still doesn’t work properly.
- You can leave and go live somewhere else. You’re not tied down. You buy a house – you lose A LOT of freedom.
- You can’t afford your rent anymore – move out (there is even housing benefit to help out). Own a home? Oh, that’s some repossession-level drama there.
- The housing market is unstable. You just don’t have to worry about it.
Why owning a home when you’re too young is dangerous
I’m sure there are going to be a load of people who owned a home in their early 20’s who disagree with me, but I worry about people settling down JUST to own a home.
Home-ownership is overrated. Especially if you’re with another young partner. You’re locked in – financially for 30-odd years with someone you likely met in your teens if you account the years of saving.
Most of us couldn’t dream of being with our first partners now for all that time. Youth is for transition/mistakes/risks – not mortgage payments with the person you fancied in year six.
If you can afford it/if you love living at home/if you’re so sure all the sacrifice is worth it – go for it. Do what makes you happy.
But don’t let stories in newspapers of young people sacrificing their youth (travelling, late-night parties, fun housemates, FREEDOM), make you feel bad for not doing it too.
I know this post will be controversial, and there will be lots of people who will disagree – so let’s debate (nicely)!