Skip to content

‘Renter’s Shame’ – Why UpperKey Says It is Becoming an Outdated Trend

What is ‘renter’s shame’, and where did it come from?

Society, our parents, friends and social media have programmed us to believe that buying is best, and renting is for those who are failing at life.

What does renter’s shame mean? It is the shame of renting the place you live in instead of buying a home.

But who makes these societal rules we’re programmed to follow, and what’s so special about the conventional plan?

“Get the best degree you can, aim high for the ultimate job, strive for the best pay, the highest rewards, smash the glass ceiling, find the perfect partner, settle down, BUY A HOUSE, start a family, watch them grow, wonder why it all went by so fast, retire, and enjoy what’s left of your time (and your money) in your forever family home.”

As time rolls on and conventions change—and we’re living in a time where we’ve seen more changes than in almost any period in history—does the typical traditional pattern still fit with the current generations?

Psychology papers are suggesting that singles are slowly rising towards being the happiest demographic. Millennials and GenZ-ers prefer job satisfaction, job-hopping, and travel to attain their premium quality of life instead of putting down roots and working up to the position with the greatest fiscal reward.

On top of that, it’s becoming harder than ever to find the high deposits required to appease the demands of mortgage lenders.

Is this purely a UK phenomenon and stigma?

Not at all—most of the world leans towards higher homeownership rates than rentals.

According to WorldAtlas, there’s only one country, Switzerland, that’s predominantly a rental society with 56.6% of the population renting. After that, there are only a small handful of three or four countries falling only slightly below the 50% line.

When you look into why rental rates are so high, they tend to follow the same reason. Cost. Lenders in those countries have made it hard to achieve the high deposits necessary and the criteria for their loan approval (proof of earning potential to make lending a safe and reliable long-term agreement).

Why doesn’t renter’s shame happen in the countries where renting is the standard?

Where renting is as acceptable as buying, the population accepts that ‘that’s just how it is.’ There’s plenty of choice in Switzerland for high-quality, affordable rentals, and the system works well, protecting renters and their rights.

In Germany, renting works out significantly cheaper than buying in many of the most popular regions and cities; buying a property has always been problematic due to high deposits and an unfavourable property transfer tax regime.

However, while housing market rates have elevated almost everywhere else over the past few years, they’ve fallen in Germany or risen by insignificant increments compared to other countries. So as much as residents understand the benefits of ownership and opportunities to get on the ladder being better right now, there’s no surge of new applicants and still no shame in renting. Why? Because there hasn’t been throughout their lifetime, and that’s what they’ve accepted as normal.

Why do we still feel so ashamed of renting our homes despite shifts in convention?

We’ve been brainwashed to believe that getting on the property ladder is a right of passage to becoming successful. Rent is seen as wasted money—and ownership, an investment.

Okay, buying a property will always be a good investment, but only if you can afford it. Limiting your lifestyle and your opportunities by stretching your finances to their limit isn’t as good for our wellbeing as we think.

Can you comfortably trade your holidays, travel plans, social life, a new car perhaps, and the luxuries that make life worth living just to own the four walls you come home to each day? What if there’s an emergency that financially cripples you? You could easily lose everything and be right back to square one without a financial safety net place.

How do we combat renter’s shame?

We need to stop seeing renting as second best and that we’re failing at life. On the contrary, there are more reasons than ever to embrace renting. Even before the pandemic hit, there has been a shift in how we work and live. Since then, there has been a considerable movement towards remote working, the importance of lifestyle and life experience, and taking stock of what’s most important while reassessing our existence.

Embrace the advantages and be proud to break those chains

1. Financial freedom

With property prices escalating, if you haven’t jumped on the property ladder already, you’re tying yourself to a high monthly fee for the rest of your likely working life. In addition, interest rates will likely keep you on your toes (although at the moment, they’ll be on your side), and despite costs decreasing over time, you’re still tied to a decision you made years ago.

Renters are only tied to the term of their contract. So if you’re doing well, why not move into a bigger, more luxurious property next year? Then, you can take advantage of your good fortune without all the hassle and expense of selling up and buying somewhere new.

On the flip side, downsizing is just as easy when things are tight. Put your largest items in storage and find somewhere with lower rents. No problem.

2. Upgrades are as easy as packing up and moving across town

The same goes for décor, design, and making a home. Where your property-owning peers spend countless days, weeks, or months renovating and redecorating—never mind the fortunes that go into changing the layout, the fixtures and fittings—the renter can simply up sticks and move into the perfect home for them at that time.

Even if the renter wants to sit tight for an extended stay, periodic decorating costs are usually tied into a lease to keep the property updated and appropriate without adding anything to the rent figure.

3. Freedom of movement

One of the biggest things we’ve learnt during the pandemic is that Generation Z and Millennials have been striving for a better work/life balance over high pay and security. As a result, flexible and remote working schemes are more popular than ever, so living in the towns and cities we once only dreamed of has become a reality for many.

We watched workers flee busy cities to move into remote locations when working from home became the standard. But, again, on the flip side, younger, fun-seekers moved into vibrant cities to take full advantage of the colourful lifestyles they craved.

What if you merely fancy a change? The area you moved to was ideal when you needed to slow down a little, but now you’re back up for a busy social life and putting some colour into your time away from your desk. No problem: renting allows the flexibility to move wherever the action is, often freeing up a little cash to take full advantage.

Each move is easier manifested when we don’t have the ties a traditional life puts upon us.

4. Freedom from responsibility

The roof develops a leak. The boiler packs up. There’s a damp spot in the kitchen, and lights are flickering in the kid’s bedroom.

For the renter, we hear a resounding, ‘not my problem.’ Call your landlord and get them on it ASAP.

If you own your property, there seems to be a never-ending list of jobs that need doing (wave goodbye to your lie-in at the weekend) and all their associated costs.

5. Work wherever the job takes you

Having the freedom to follow the job of your dreams is often far more valuable than putting down roots, at least until you’re older, if that’s part of your plan. Working in the world’s prime locations, places you could never hope to buy an apartment or house is all within the renter’s reach.

They aren’t tied to the same old job or specific roles in a company. They can go wherever the work takes them, without the abundance of paperwork or problems homeownership brings to the equation. Being able to enjoy workcations has become a common phenomenon amongst those lucky enough to have a remote job.

Don’t beat yourself up – getting on the property ladders is harder than ever and set to get harder

With property prices steadily increasing and borrowing harder than ever to put in place—with fewer lenders and larger deposits needed—rental numbers are steadily growing in the UK and many European countries. Accepting that the here and now is the life you’ve got and making that count is far more sensible than revelling in where it all went wrong and the things you think you’ve missed out on.

There are plenty of tricks to make your rental more homely if you need to, from switching cabinet and door handles to bringing in temporary decoration and fixtures. It’s about working smarter, not working harder, after all. When you iRent with agencies like UpperKey, you will be sure to have a place that feels like home and is maintained with the highest quality standards.

Feeling shame only happens if you allow it the space to consume your thoughts. Learn to be proud of what your current lifestyle brings to you and as far as ‘keeping up with the neighbours’? Leave them to it—literally. Why worry about landscaping your garden when you could be living in an exciting new city every six months or each year as a digital nomad?