Are you still living in a rental, dreaming of a home of your own?
What is a home? Must it have a mortgage attached? If you ask me it's that place you come to, open the door, and give a sigh of relief. For, in the words of "The Wizard of Oz", There's no place like home!
So if you are not yet feeling at home in your rented house, this one's for you!
*see picture commentary at end of post
Investments made in your house can be divided into two groups:
1. Investments in structure- these are things such as construction, tiling, painting etc. that are part of the building and cannot move on with us to our next house.
2. Investments in portable items- these are things such as furniture, curtains, light fixtures, etc. that can be packed up and transported our next house.
Let's begin by setting some "ground rules" relating to these two:
Investing in structure: On the one hand we want to minimize these investments. Any improvement in the house itself will be to the owner's benefit only, once we leave. It seems like "pouring money down the drain". On the other hand, assume you were the owner of this house, and you wanted to paint it. You would invest the money readily, but after so-and-so years you would need to invest in maintenance of the paint or repainting altogether. To argue the case we will assume the house needs repainting every 5 years and the cost of the paint job is 5000 NIS. According to this calculation you invest 1000 NIS a year in paint. Now transfer this calculation to your situation: do you have a 3 year lease? You would put in 1000 NIS a year in any case so put 3000 NIS into the house. Get the idea?
How much are you willing to pay a month for improving your quality of life in this house? Multiply that by the number of months you anticipate to be living here, and voila– this is your budget. Invest it in things that will make these four walls feel like a home: carpentry, shower doors, pretty tiles in the kitchen- whatever!
I would like to dispel the myth that putting money in a rented house is wasted money. We find it acceptable to make large investments in a house we bought even though many of those investments will never be returned. So why not do so in our rented house? At the end of the day the act is the same- we pay a price to buy the feeling of a "home".
Investing in portable items: On the one hand these items will always be ours and therefore it seems sensible to invest in them. On the other hand what's suitable for this house may not fit into the next. Additionally, some items get damaged when being disassembled, transported and reassembled. Therefore not every investment under this category is necessarily worthwhile.
Now that we've set the basics- let's get down to work:
- Paint: Fill in holes in the wall and give the walls a layer of fresh paint. If the apartment old and shabby, stick to the whites (warm white, off white, cream white…). You want color? Add it in the accessories, not on the walls. In the bedrooms you could bend the rule a bit but stick to light colors. The darker or more dominant the shade of the paint- the more the flaws in the walls will show.
- Does the house come with closets? You could easily have them suited to your needs. Missing draws? Buy baskets and place them on the shelves. Too much hanging? Take out the pole (leave the holders and put it back in place when your lease is up), measure the interior of the closet and order melamine shelves from the closest carpenter or DIY shop. Melamine is cheaper than formica, and although not as good in quality, still durable enough for the next few years. Not enough hanging? Pull out the shelves and have a pole cut out to fit the interior width of the closet. Most bedroom closets have shelves spaced every 35-40 cms. Add more shelves (space them at 25 centimeters apart) and enlarge your storage space. Are the closet doors horrific looking? Get a roll of pretty contact paper and give that closet an updated look (just make sure your landlord does not flip). Door knobs can easily be replaced for something "fun" or "elegant". (take one of the original handles to the store with you to verify that you are buying handles with the correct distance between holes).
- No closets in the house? Buy several small closet units rather than one big closet. For example? The bedroom has a 2 meter niche. Buy two, two-door, closets rather than one four door closet. It may cost you a tad more but look what you gain: Next time you move you could save yourself the disassembling of the closet. A two door closet slides out of the room and onto the truck. This will save the closet wear-and-tear and save you costs of labor too. Another advantage is that you now have a higher chance of reusing the closet in the next apartment. If the next house has a 1.6 meter niche, you will use the 1 meter unit, order a one door closet to fill in the niche and use the second two-door unit in another room.
- Lighting: Good lighting sets the atmosphere in the house. First and foremost be sure to have the house well lit. Invest in a few really nice fixtures and place then where you will enjoy them most. All the other fixtures can be plain, cheap and simple as long as they give off enough light. It is important that the lighting in the main area of the house is ambient lighting, lighting the whole room evenly and not focused on one spot.
- Furniture: Avoid over-piling of mismatched furniture. Even if you don't have the budget to buy yourself new furniture, that doesn't mean you have to take every shmata you are offered. Define your needs clearly and bring in the minimal amount of furniture needed to satisfy these needs. Invest in a few items that you really like and stick to neutral with all the rest (for example white or iron shelves will always fit in). Of course you could always pin down great finds at a low price from second hand sites such as: yad2, homeless, and agura.
- How are the floors? Re-tiling the floors is a costly task but parquet is relatively cheap, easy to install (you could even do it yourself) -and even better- is easy to dismantle and take with you to your next home. So if you want a bedroom from the magazines, this can be the solution.
- We all have at least one fantasy that has to do with our dream house. Choose a small part of that dream and realize it now, in this home, even if on a very small scale. Examples: Dreaming of a luxurious bath but there is only a small shower in your apartment? Install a small tub (they come as short as 120 cms.). Dreaming of some counter space around your wash basin? Buy one of those ready-made units that have a built in counter with the sink. You could even take this unit with you to the next house. A night lamp? A garden swing? Breakfast in bed?? Whatever your dream- bring it into your home NOW!
Creating spaces people want to live in.
*The picture attached to this post is taken from Lea Goldberg's classic, דירה להשכיר (a flat for rent). anyone brought up in israel recognizes it immediately- I couldn't resist attaching it here too.