Our recent study, The Rental Experience: Setting the Standard, aimed to find out more about the modern UK renter – who they are, why they rent and the barriers they face as renters, writes Victoria Hurcomb of Sigma Capital Group.
Historically, society is focused on incentivising buying a home. There are government schemes like Help to Buy and TV shows that cast a shadow over renting, focusing on rogue landlords. You seldom hear about the positive stories of renting.
Our recent findings showed that almost half of renters in the UK (46%) were quite happy renting, while 24% were very happy, 22% were not very happy and 9% were not at all happy. These findings could suggest that societal factors and pressures may tend to be what drives the desire to buy a property, rather than the experience itself.
The report also found that many older renters thought they were in the minority, when in fact, those aged 35-44 make up the largest group of renters at 25%, and the average age of a renter is actually 45.
It became apparent during the research that many renters, particularly those over 35, would prefer to keep this detail secret from friends and neighbours, not because they are unhappy renting, but because they are concerned with what society thinks. In doing so, it unfortunately feeds some of the common myths around rental happiness, the perception of landlords and the assumed demographic of today’s renter.
In many parts of Europe, renting a home in the long term is very much the norm. For countries like Germany, France and Austria, renting a property is just part of everyday living for the majority. In Berlin, it is estimated that around 72% of the population rent.
In Britain, we are taught from an early age that buying a home is the ultimate life goal. Yet times and opinions do appear to be changing. Increasingly more people in the UK are now choosing to rent as an alternative to buying a property, with predictions that in 2025, some 60% of Londoners will be renting.
There can be a lot of grey areas when it comes to renting and people have vastly different experiences. Renters often feel like their landlords chose them and not the other way around. Searches are usually based on property and location, so house hunters only get to know the quality of their landlord once they move in. Renters feel it can often be potluck as to who the landlord is and the service they give.
Through the Simple Life brand, we are now trying to bring this to the fore and make the whole experience completely transparent. We are working hard to create homes and communities where families can see themselves for many years and we have started to create a real affinity with our residents. They are increasingly engaged and during lockdown we’ve seen a surge in our tenants creating Instagram accounts showing how they are dressing and enjoying their homes. Although they are renting, they see the properties as their own long-term homes.
Our research found that although some renters across the UK still see renting as ‘dead’ money, there are many benefits to renting that are important to people, such as having more freedom and flexibility, as well as a greater choice of living environments and having the opportunity to live in a better area or larger property than would be achievable if they were looking to buy.
The market is changing and maturing, and it is possible that in the future, more and more people will take a leaf out of Europe’s book and start to see renting as a more aspirational choice.