The flexibility of renting is perfect for the kids and me
For entrepreneur, author and single mum Alice, the time had come to find some space for her family to grow into.
Since separating from her husband, she and her two children, Elfie and Hux, had been renting a house next door to her parents in a village in north Buckinghamshire.
“I was 27 when I split up with my husband and it was a big adjustment having to take on all the responsibilities – suddenly everything was down to me, including finding the best home for me and the kids.”
Living next door to mum and dad worked well for two and a half years, but Alice decided that the time had come to move on.
“As much as we loved where we lived, the kids were getting itchy feet about sharing a bedroom, and having lived next door to my parents for a while I felt I owed it to all of us to gain back some independence. My parents had been amazing – always on hand to help out – but I did find myself on occasion saying, ‘you’re going to have to give me some space! I’m a 33 year old woman – I know how to stack my own dishwasher!’.”
Having recognised that it was time to look elsewhere, Alice turned to Rightmove to find a new home to rent.
“I’m a bit of a Rightmove addict so I used the draw-a-search tool to create a search area taking into account all the villages near Milton Keynes I was familiar with, as well as school catchment areas, and then set up property alerts for any properties to rent within that area.”
Her criteria were clear: a house with three bedrooms, an office, a garden, great light and character, in a village within the children’s school catchment and not too far from family – she wanted her independence, but she still wanted to be close to her mum and dad who had always been so supportive.
“This house popped up on Rightmove and it sounded perfect. It’s owned by a charitable trust so I had to write a letter of application saying why I’d be a good tenant – and because I’m self-employed I had to supply references. That was probably the most stressful part of the process – proving myself to strangers even though I was confident in my ability to pay the rent.”
After applying it took about a week to get everything confirmed, and although there were some headaches along the way, Alice knew it would be worth it to secure the right home.
“I wanted a character house and I’ve got that – this house has beams, a fireplace, the kids have their own bedrooms and there’s an extra room for an office which is heaven. It’s also got really nice light, and light is very important to me – probably because I’m on Instagram the whole time!”
And the location isn’t bad either – opposite the village pub!
“I’ve never had a local before so that’s nice. And everyone in the village looks out for each other – there’s always someone who will take in my Amazon deliveries!”
Alice isn’t the only fan of their new home – Elfie and Hux are delighted with their own rooms and her mum and dad are impressed too.
“They’re happy that we’ve made the next step into such a lovely house that’s still pretty close to where they live – we’re only a mile and a half down the road – so my dad’s always over here doing DIY and I often meet them for a drink at the pub.”
But why rent and not buy? For Alice it was a straightforward decision.
“I would like to buy a house at some point,” she explains, “but I’m just not in a place right now where I want to invest all my income on mortgage repayments. I work really hard and don’t want to finish work at the end of the day and worry about expenditure. I want to finish work and think, ‘wow, I worked really hard today, I want to plan a fabulous holiday and enjoy living a bit more. Until I’ve lost the footloose and fancy-free bit of myself I’m happy to stick with the flexibility and freedom that renting gives me.”
So for now Alice is happy to commit to her 12-month lease, and having successfully navigated her way through the process on her own, what advice would she give to anyone else looking to rent?
“Be really hot with all your paperwork and admin – make sure you’ve got all that in place so that you’re ready to go when the right place comes up. Make sure you know what will be expected of you with regards to deposits etc. The Renter advice section on Rightmove has loads of useful information that’s worth looking at before you start the process. It was quite a proud moment when I secured this place because I’ve never rented a house on my own before so it was good to know that I could do it by myself. In fact I liked doing it on my own”
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