5 inexpensive buys to take your shared kitchen from drab to fab

1. Windowsill Herb Box

How many times in the last month have you found yourself mid-marinade, wishing you’d remembered to pick up some basil from Tesco earlier? Cry no more, my friend. A windowsill herb planter will soothe all herbal culinary woes, with no need for a garden, trowel or previous plant-growing expertise – and it’ll make every grimy kitchen look (and smell) better straight away. Snap one up for as little as £9.99 on Amazon (complete with compost, basil, chive and parsley seed packets) and get growing. Flatmates shall be bowled over, bolognese shall taste better, and visitors shall mistake you for a proper adult.

2. Cloud-shaped Chalkboard

There’s SO many things to love about the good old fashioned chalkboard. Not only does it conjure endless classroom nostalgia, it also serves as a great canvas for scribbling important notes to your flatmates. You know, things like the all-important cleaning rota, whose turn it is to buy milk, or passive aggressive (read: threatening) messages to the suspected biscuit thief. This one is cloud-shaped and comes in at under £20, leaving you plenty of pennies to stock up on an array of coloured chalks.

3. Pineapple Bottle Stop

Bid a smug farewell to the days of leaving random spoons in the top of your prosecco to keep it fizzy in the fridge (thanks for the tip though, Mum). This chic £12 pineapple bottle stop is here to keep those rare unfinished beverages fresh, flavoursome and at their strongest ABV. It’s simultaneously also pretty cute and stylish enough to incite envious conversation amongst dinner guests. Which is a great distraction from a less than brilliant choice of wine.

4. Panini maker

Everybody knows there’s nothing quite like the heartwarming smell of gently toasting bread, and nothing quite like the taste of gooey melted mozzarella. Enter the (£20) panini maker. Flatmates will be wooed by your freshly toasted sandwiches (they make great bribes/peace offerings) and just think of all the cash you’ll save without the need for those lunchtime Pret visits and dodgy meal deals. Better still, you can garnish your creations using those freshly grown windowsill box herbs. Winner, winner.

5. A kitchen garden

Because let’s face it, reasonably priced rented accommodation with a garden = SERIOUSLY rare, particularly if you’re living in the city. But not to worry, because there’s always Patch – purveyors of the uber-cheap urban plant. There’s kitchen plants galore for both well-lit and dimly-lit spaces, plus a selection of minimalist cool pots to keep them in. We’re hankering after Franky the aloe vera plant and his air-purifying, skin-soothing powers. Is there anything Franky can’t do?

Buying these is great and all, but how about if you didn’t pay rent for a month? Then you could buy all of these and more…SO much more. Well, it could happen sooner than you think – enter our Live Rent Free competition, where we pay someone’s rent EVERY month.

We’ve found this year’s LiveRentFree top dog…

A 25-piece samba band, four SpareRoomers in dog fancy dress and a giant cheque for £6,708. It’s the stuff dreams are made of, right?

Or at least it was for 29-year-old Nicola Bodfish, a Brighton-based canine-grooming enthusiast and the latest winner of our annual LiveRentFree competition.

But let’s paws (sorry) and go back to the start. In May, we invited renters to share their dreams of how they’d spend a year’s free rent. Over 80,000 entries (and a LOT of hilarious responses) later, we found our winner Nicola, whose dream was quitting her job to start a dog grooming business.

Such an insane prize deserved an equally insane reveal, so we decided to surprise Nicola on Saturday 1st July, while she was (aptly) studying at The Dog Hut Canine Studies college in Polegate. Our squad included a samba band, four SpareRoomers dressed as giant dogs, a banner with Nicola’s name plastered across it, and a HUGE cheque for £6,708 (a year of her rent) hand-delivered by Rupert, our CEO and Founder.

Her reaction? Worryingly cool, calm and collected on camera, but overall as chuffed as you’d expect: “Saturday was absolutely crazy. I really can’t thank you guys enough for such an awesome surprise – you don’t know how much this will help me progress the business plans. I don’t think it’s even sunk in yet!”

Keep your eyes peeled for Sussex-based canine updates, and in the meantime why not have a think about what you’d do with a month’s free rent? Our monthly LiveRentFree competition could make it happen sooner than you think…

Happy Rent Freedom Day!

Happy Rent Freedom Day!

What does that mean? Simple – if the average UK flatsharer started the year putting all their take home pay towards rent, it would have taken till now to pay it off. That means May 12th is the first day of the year you’d be working just for yourself.

That’s a massive chunk of your life spent working just to pay the rent.

But what if every day was Rent Freedom Day?

Someone’s about to get the chance to find out, thanks to SpareRoom’s Live Rent Free competition. It’s one of those ‘does what it says on the tin’ things – we’re going to pay one lucky flatmate’s rent for a whole year.

Yep, you heard right.

What would you spend the money on? The trip of a lifetime? Starting a business? Clearing your credit card debt?

These are some of our favourite responses so far!

“I would always order guacamole when I had a burrito (even though it costs more)”

“Holiday like a Z-list reality TV celebrity”

“Buy flights to South America as I really want to go to Costa Rica and hold a baby sloth”

If you want to find out what happened to the last person we gave a whole year’s rent to, check out our blog post (**spoiler alert – this link does not include baby sloths or guacamole**)

So, what are you waiting for? Enter Live Rent Free now to be in with a chance of winning. Oh, and happy Rent Freedom Day!

How living rent free changed one person’s life

Back in 2009, when we first launched Live Rent Free, we decided to give away a year’s rent to kick things off. We figured a whole year without paying rent might give someone the opportunity to do something exciting, or maybe even life changing. Thousands of people clearly agreed and entries started flooding in. We picked a winner and emailed her with the fantastic news.

Nothing happened.

We waited a few days…still nothing. We emailed again. Nope. So we took to social media to see if anyone out there could help find our winner. Still no luck.

Then, two weeks later, just as we were having the do we need to pick another winner? conversation, an email arrived.

‘I didn’t get the original no, thank you for mailing me again. Jo.’

Quickly followed by another…

‘Didn’t fully read the last email, now I’ve read the second bit… I’m sort of freaking out. I don’t think I’ve ever won anything before!’

Turns out the original email went into her junk folder but, finally, we’d found our winner. At the time, Jo lived in London (Balham, to be precise). We worked out her prize, based on the average rent in her postcode, and sent her a cheque for £7,072, along with a note asking for a bit of info about herself and what she planned to do with the money.

‘I moved to London from Manchester in order to go back to university, where I study illustration. I entered the competition on a whim then forgot all about it. I have to say when I read your email my brain stopped responding to what I was seeing, which is a bit worrying for an art student. I have no idea what I’ll spend the money on…probably  a Cintiq, which is a sort of computer screen you can draw on. Then I guess lots of nice books and beer for my friends!’

Lucky friends!

Our lucky winner, Jo

Fast forward to 2017 and we decided Live Rent Free deserved a little bit of a refresh. We’d given away over £60,000 in our regular monthly competition by then, but, inspired by our founder Rupert’s experience of finding roommates when he moved to New York, wanted to give someone else the chance to live rent free for a whole year.

While we were discussing it someone in the office asked what had happened to Jo since she won. We had no idea, so sent her a quick email to see if she minded us asking what she’d done with the money. Thankfully, we got a quick response this time!

‘I’m so happy you got in touch! It was life changing actually.

I was studying illustration at the time, and I used the money to buy a Cintiq. It’s a drawing tablet, like a big screen you can draw directly onto to make digital artwork. After I graduated I worked at a couple of studios in London, then within the year I decided to go freelance and move to Australia. I only brought one bag of clothes and my Cintiq. 

Since then I’ve been working as an illustrator, and I actually got to do some work with the company who make the tablet (Wacom) which was amazing, they kindly gave me a Companion (a smaller Cintiq you can carry around) and I also won another small one, so I’m now the proud owner of three of them! The first one is still my favourite though, I use it every day! 

I’ve attached some pictures of my workspace, see if you can spot the cat!

If you want to see some of my artwork, there are a few pieces of personal work on here http://jo- ley.tumblr.com/ 

I really want to say a big thank you to you all for the competition and prize money. I’m lucky enough to have a job I love, and I definitely wouldn’t have been able to do it without that piece of equipment, so you really helped make my dream of becoming an artist come true.’

Jo and Gambit

We didn’t need any more convincing that a year’s rent free could change someone’s life!

So, now it’s your turn. How could a year living rent free change your life? Would you travel, start a business, go back to uni or volunteer? Or would you just use the money to pay off your debts?

Enter now for your chance to live rent free for a year.

(Oh, and in case you were wondering…a year’s rent in Balham now comes to rather more than it did eight years ago – £9,449 to be precise!)

London vs New York – Which is the best city to rent in?

Header for FB+Blog+Newsletter

 

If you live in a city, chances are you spend a fair bit of time complaining about the cost of living, particularly if you live in London or New York.

Both regularly feature on lists of the world’s most expensive cities for good reason. Yet both are also amongst the most creative, vibrant, diverse cities in the world.

We decided to ask flatmates in London and NYC how they live. By looking at average rents, cost of living, who people live with and how they commute, we’ve been able to build up a fascinating head to head picture of how London and New York really compare.

Let’s dive in and look at the typical flatmate in each city….

The Typical Flatmate – UK

 

So, the average Londoner earns less, is slightly younger and is more likely to have several flatmates. But how far does her money go? Let’s look at rents.

 

Renting & Affordability – UK

 

London is definitely cheaper than New York when it comes to rent, which might come as a surprise to a few Londoners. You’re also more likely to get some outside space for your money.

Those annual savings make it pretty clear that living with flatmates is way cheaper than renting on your own too!

Next we looked at the cost of living…

 

Cost of living – UK

 

Turns out that, while Londoners earn less, they also need to spend a lot less on bills and food.

Finally, the dreaded commute. How do Londoners get around and how long do we spend commuting compared to New Yorkers?

 

Getting Around – UK

 

The typical Londoner has a longer commute than her New York counterpart. Only one in three Londoners has a commute of less than 30 minutes, compared to half of New Yorkers. Looks like Londoners are more healthy though, as we’re more likely to use our commute to exercise (and we’re less likely to hop in a cab!)

So, there you have it. Which city wins? The truth is that both London and New York are incredible places to live, but the experience is a little different – Londoners have cheaper rents, bills and general cost of living, but those higher salaries mean New Yorkers tend to have more money left at the end of the month.

So, which would you choose?

=====

How about living in London (or anywhere) rent free?

If you don’t already, make sure you’re entering SpareRoom’s Live Rent Free competition. Every month we give away a month’s rent to one lucky flatsharer. If you don’t enter, it’s not going to be you, is it?

Government to ban agents’ fees

street-photo

There’s some huge news for renters in today’s Autumn Statement. The government has announced plans to scrap all letting fees charged to tenants ‘as soon as possible.’

That means when you move, all you can be asked to pay is your first month’s rent and a deposit. No more charges for credit checks, inventories or admin fees. Those will now have to be paid by the landlord.

Unsurprisingly, when we asked SpareRoom users earlier this year whether you were in favour of this change, 92% of you said yes. Surprisingly, 75% of landlords also agreed.

Scotland already scrapped letting fees charged to tenants in 2012 – now England and Wales will follow suit, after the chancellor’s surprise announcement today.

We’ll update you when we know more about when these will come into effect. In the meantime, tell us your experiences of letting fees in the comments below.

Deadline for Welsh landlords to register is fast approaching

Register_UK_BLOG

 

Landlords in Wales now need to become registered, according to a ruling that came into effect on November 23rd 2015 and gave people a year to register.

That means the deadline is in less than a week.

If you haven’t registered yet here’s a quick guide to the new system and what you need to do.

Who needs to register?

If you own a property in Wales that you don’t live in and rent it out on an assured, assured shorthold (AST) or regulated tenancy you need to register.

Who else does it affect?

If you act as the agent for a property you don’t own then you won’t need to register but may need to apply for a license. Click here for more info on licensing.

What about holiday lets?

If the property you rent out is a holiday let you’re not a landlord under the Housing (Wales) Act 2014 so don’t need to register.

That also applies if you let someone (e.g. a relative) live in your property rent free.

How do I register?

You can register at rentsmart.gov.wales

All you need to do is create an account and follow the steps online.

You need to complete the registration yourself – you can’t get an agent to do it for you.

What does it cost?

Registration costs £33.50 if you do it online – the fee covers you as a landlord and doesn’t increase if you own multiple properties.

Applying via a paper application instead of online costs £80.50.

What happens next?

Your registration lasts 5 years – after that you need to register again. By law you’ll need to keep your information up to date in the meantime.

That includes things like changes in name, address or contact details and adding more properties to your registration.

For full details and to register online visit rentsmart.gov.wales

Move over tuition fees, rent rises are the hottest topic for students

Tuition fees have been fiercely debated in recent years. But rising rents are having just as big an impact on student debt, with the university you choose making a huge difference to how much you owe when you graduate.

University-Blog-Image

There’s been an annual rent rise of up to 10% in some university cities, meaning students are up to £600 a year worse off. However this year students aren’t just battling rising rents, they’re also affected by a private rental market struggling to cope with demand – in parts of London and Edinburgh, 5 people are competing for every room available. Overall this means that where you go to uni can have a huge impact on your housing experience and post graduation debt (no one mentions that at the open day).

For example, the difference between rent for students at Imperial College in London compared to those studying at St. Andrew’s in Scotland is a massive £792 a month. Over a three-year course the difference is eye watering – over £28,500. Even choosing Durham over Oxford could save students more than £7,000 in rent over three years.

Durham students have one of the best chances of finding a student-friendly house share, with 92% of rooms available to students – over 20% more than the national average. Durham is also arguably one of the best cities to be a student as rents in the area have actually decreased over the past year – bet you’re feeling smug now Durham students!

Check out our table below for all the facts, figures and average room rents in 30 of the UK’s top university towns and cities:

Rank University Location Ave monthly room rent Q2 2016 (£) Annual % difference between Q2 2015 & Q2 2016
1 Cambridge Cambridge £541 6%
2 Oxford Oxford £557 10%
3 St Andrews Kirkcaldy £339 3%
4 Surrey Guildford £574 9%
5 Loughborough Loughborough £350 3%
6 Durham Durham £362 -1%
7 Imperial College London SW7 £1,131 4%
8 Lancaster Lancaster £371 5%
9 Warwick Coventry £388 5%
10 Bath Bath £448 2%
11 Exeter Exeter £434 4%
12 London School of Economics London WC2 £1,034 -5%
13 Birmingham Birmingham £405 -2%
14 UCL London WC1 £870 4%
15 Coventry Coventry £388 5%
16 Leeds Leeds £374 6%
17 Southampton Southampton £436 4%
18 City London EC1 £920 2%
19 York York £400 6%
20 Sussex Brighton £511 4%
21 Edinburgh Edinburgh £469 7%
22 Kent Canterbury £418 -1%
22 UEA Norwich £401 7%
24 Nottingham Nottingham £374 4%
25 Glasgow Glasgow £390 4%
26 Heriot-Watt Edinburgh £469 7%
27 Dundee Dundee £323 4%
28 Aston Birmingham £405 -2%
29 SOAS London WC1 £870 4%
30 Manchester Manchester £414 7%

Source: SpareRoom.co.uk

As usual we’d love to hear your stories. Are you struggling with the cost of renting? Did you choose your university based on the cost of housing as much as the course? Let us know in the comments.

Flatsharing heads to the Fringe

Maddie_Blog_Image

We’re excited to announce SpareRoom’s partnership with Rent Girl, a hilarious and brutally honest comedy about the life of a renter, written for this year’s Edinburgh Fringe.

Rent Girl is the latest project from actress and writer Maddy Anholt and follows the success of Diary of a Dating Addict, which enjoyed a sell out run at last year’s Edinburgh Fringe and transferred to London’s Soho Theatre this year.

Previews start this month and run across the UK throughout July, before the show heads up to Edinburgh for the Fringe.

Here’s what Maddy has to say about Rent Girl:

Hello, my name is Maddy Anholt and I am a rent girl. I’ve been a rent girl for the last ten years in London. I worked out the other day what I’ve spent on rent in London over the last ten years. £136,000. That’s not a typo… £136,000. Pretty vomit-inducing, isn’t it?

The fact is by 2025 only 26% of young adults will be on the housing ladder. That means 74% of us will be rent boys and rent girls by 2025. Rent goes up and up and our salaries stay the same so we don’t have much choice in the matter.

But is it possible to have an enjoyable renting experience? An experience where you could leave food in the cupboards safely knowing it’d be there when you got home? Where you didn’t wake up to your flatmate watching you sleep at the end of your bed? Where you didn’t find questionable hairs in your toothbrush?

It all started in 2009 when I first came to London from a remote countryside town to try and build my empire. I put up an advert looking for work: “Young, fresh girl seeks any part-time work… excellent typing and oral skills”. You can imagine the responses I got.

Rent Girl is Sliding Doors meets Pretty Woman … was I better off taking the job as a children’s entertainer ending up with two broken toes, or should I have sold my underwear for £800 a pop to afford my rent?

Rent Girl previews opened 26th June at The Comedy Room, Camden and run throughout July. For full dates and tickets see: www.maddyanholt.com or find Maddy on Twitter @maddy_anholt

Rent Girl will be at The Edinburgh Festival Fringe, The Gilded Balloon, 17:30, 3rd – 29th August. www.gildedballoon.co.uk

‘Second Liverpool’ found hiding in the spare room

We desperately need another Liverpool.

There’s nothing wrong with the one we’ve got, we just need another. Right now. We also need another every year for the next 25 years. That’s a lot of Liverpools.

But let’s start with why we need one.

There’s a housing crisis. It’s a fact. We need to build 250,000 houses every year, enough for 460,000 people. That’s basically the population of…you guessed it… Liverpool.

We don’t build anywhere near that and we’re not about to. Last time we did was 1979-80.

Even if we could build a new Liverpool every year, where would we put it? Wouldn’t it just be easier if we had a spare Liverpool lying around?

As it happens, we do.

England’s homeowners have 19 million empty rooms between them. If we can persuade just 2.5% to rent them out they’d house 475,000 people. That’s basically the population of…you guessed it… Liverpool.

We could do that right now, with a decent incentive.

And we’ve finally got one.

As of April 6th people can earn £7,500 a year tax-free by renting out a room. It doesn’t just apply to homeowners – tenants can do it too with their landlord’s permission. It took us six and a half years to convince Government but they finally did it. Sounds like a decent incentive doesn’t it?

It’s a proper win-win. Tenants benefit from increased supply of affordable rooms and homeowners get a tax break to encourage them to open their doors.

Now, has anyone got a spare Manchester knocking about?

===

You can find out more about the Rent a Room Scheme and how it works here.