5 things only Generation Rent will understand (as told by a Generation Renter)

Contrary to popular belief, most of Generation Rent aren’t actually spending their days crying into their avo-toast because they can’t afford to buy a house. But that doesn’t mean it’s okay to go on about homeowning 24/7, or put gross sofas in our rented flat…

1. The perils of living with disgusting furniture

Wild Saturday night #inbedby9 #wildtimes #partyanimal #carnage #hourstoclean #feelfreshsunday #uglysofa

A post shared by Louise Tremaine ✨ (@louisetremaine) on

Raise a hand if you feel like every flat you’ve ever lived in has come with a side order of uncomfortable springy mattress, scuffed ‘leather’ sofa and plastic indoor dining chairs? Luckily for you there’s all manner of landlord-friendly ways to spruce up your rental nowadays, so go forth and get that mattress topper, peel-off floor tile stickers and ALL of the furniture-hiding throws.

2. Listening to your smug friends brag about homeowning

…because who even cares about Archie and his studio flat (and cat) on a housing estate in (aka near) Gloucester. I’d much rather be flatsharing in Zone 2 and drinking 2-4-1 espresso martinis in hipster bars on work nights. Now that is living.

3. Listening to your parents comment about homeowning

The only thing worse than smug friends is concerned parents who are still convinced you can save enough to buy a semi-detached suburban property by the time you’re 24, as long as you just ‘stop going to the pub’. “But what if you never buy?!” they gasp in horror, as if it’s the end of the world. Spoiler alert: it’s not. A life free from footing your own boiler bills, and being able to move to a different location every 12 months? Spontaneity: 1. Life admin: 0.

4. What it’s really like to live with your besties

You’ve been dreaming about it ever since you watched that one where Monica, Rachel and Phoebe hung out wearing wedding dresses. That sense of freedom! Those special bonding moments! The safe knowledge that someone is always there (with a beer) to console you during the darker days… Living with your besties is a dream come true. Sure, you’ll lose all sense of personal space and there will be times when you kind of wish you could just be in your room by yourself, but who wants to shack up solo in a shoebox-sized flat that cost their life savings when they could split bills three ways, have three times the fun and make life a permanent sleepover instead?

5. The confused sense of dread when a cool new restaurant/bar opens near your place

https://www.instagram.com/p/BXXMob-BUoo/?taken-by=paulheron.foto

It’s the classic internal dilemma: no matter how badly you want to try those maple-glazed chicken wings on buttermilk pancakes with a locally-brewed craft beer, you know they’re only going to taste of gentrification fear. You know, the fear that your rent will skyrocket, and you’ll be bought out of your once undiscovered shabby-chic town by a bunch of graduates with parent-funded rents. The fear that your days in your rough-but-cool flatshare will come to an abrupt end, and it’s all thanks to gentrification. Have faith and search SpareRoom. There’s always an affordable gem in a quirky location…

And then of course there’s the ultimate cure-all: enjoying all the benefits of flatsharing without having to pay any rent whatsoever. No, we’re not messing – our LiveRentFree competitions can actually make this a reality. With both a monthly draw to cover someone’s rent for a month, and a bigger annual competition where we’ll foot one winner’s rental bill for a whole YEAR, there’s plenty of chances to win. Just click below and cross EVERYTHING…

5 storage hacks for really tiny spaces

It’s a well-known truth that no matter how big your room is, how much space your flat has, and how many sets of drawers you buy…you’re probably never going to feel like you have enough storage.

So take this truth and shoehorn it into the ‘just enough space for a double bed’ room you’re hypothetically renting in your current flatshare, and what we’ve got is the space of storage nightmares. Things are spilling out crammed drawers, there’s nowhere to keep your bike, and the Marie Kondo book about decluttering you got for Christmas last year is sitting atop a pile of other junk in the corner, ironically gathering dust.

What the hell do you do? Well, we’re no Marie Kondo but we can help you start to streamline your stuff with a few clever storage hacks to make the most of your space.

1) A case for baskets

Cotton storage basket, £8.99 (H&M)

Otherwise known as the more stylish way to disguise your hoarding problem, pretty storage baskets are the ideal home for ‘useless crap’. You know, things like the payslips you’ve held onto for two years because you don’t know if you’re allowed to get rid of them, and the 18th birthday cards you can’t bring yourself to chuck. These badboys will slot neatly underneath your bed, at the bottom of your wardrobe, or wherever else you can stuff ’em – but that doesn’t mean you have to opt for ugly designs. H&M home has a great range for more than reasonable prices, like the achingly on-trend millennial pink wicker-look basket above.

2) Let’s get trollied

Leila Bar Cart, £200 (Urban Outfitters)

Although largely associated with aeroplane travel, dinner ladies and cheese selections in really fancy restaurants, a well-utilised trolley could actually be your shared kitchen’s best friend. Use it to store anything and everything, from your Tupperware and crockery collections to non-perishable goods you can’t squeeze into your cupboard (looking at you, spice collection). Or if you’re going for a more #chic vibe, pop it in your bedroom and use it for your artfully arranged bric a brac, plants, beauty products, or alcoholic spirits. We’re in LOVE with this Urban Outfitters beauty, but if you’re not sure you want to spare £200 there’s a range of more affordable options at Argos waiting to be carted around. Stuff on wheels = endless fun, btw.

3) We’re hooked

Wooden Over the Door Hook, £10 (Dunelm)

This is a true story: when I moved to uni and into my first ever rented room (which actually was the size of a double bed), over the door hooks saved my life. The true extent of my coat collection made for a difficult battle with my tiny ‘double’ wardrobe, and once I’d finally stopped sobbing at the potential prospect of actually having to throw some clothes away, I made a beeline for Wilko to find some storage solutions. £5 later, I staggered home with a (sinfully ugly) four-hook hanger, and the rest is history. Now I’ve got a bigger budget, I’d be more likely to invest in something aesthetically pleasing like these wooden Dunelm hooks, and let my coats live in the luxury they deserve.

4) Get drawer-ganised

Höfta drawer dividers, £1.50 (Ikea)

Your drawers are just over a quid away from a lifetime of organisation, and it’s all thanks to Ikea: king of storage solutions. These handy dividers can be cut to fit and slot together easily to suit your drawer-dividing needs. It’s literally the PERFECT way to separate underwear from belts, vests from tees, sunglasses from purses… the list goes on. The next challenge: remembering which section you’ve stored everything in.

5) Feel the tension

(Pinterest)

And for the grand finalé of genius storage hacks, we give you tension rods. Install a few of these into every spare nook and cranny and let the magic happen. Curtain hanging aside, tension rods have got SO many uses: hang shoes on them for a makeshift shoe rack (above), use them to create mini shelves in your kitchen cupboards (perfect for small spices and bottles), install them across windows to hang herb baskets off… Just search ‘tension rods’ in Pinterest if you’re after some inspo. Invest in your first rod for as little as £2.50 from Wilko and embark on your new life of blissful landlord-friendly storage. As well as the sheer novelty of having your entire shoe collection as wall art.

Whether it’s a big space, small space or just any space you’re after – you can find that perfect flatshare on SpareRoom. With over 90,000 rooms and flatmates on offer, there’s a LOT of bedrooms waiting for tension rods…

How to find a houseshare in a hurry

Picking the right room and housemates is a big decision. In an ideal world you’d take your time before making the call.

However, sometimes you have to relocate pretty fast – usually for a new job. Sometimes employers expect you to be ready to work in a matter of days…so how do you find the perfect houseshare without panicking about the looming deadline?

We know this can all feel daunting, especially if you haven’t gone through the process before. Even the most chilled out person can become sweaty-palmed at the thought of finding a new place to live in a short amount of time. Sure, you’re desperate to find a base, but you also want to make sure you’re living with the right people in somewhere that feels like home. What if your new housemates don’t appreciate your Game of Thrones addiction? What if they only leave their room for a takeaway delivery?

And breathe. Finding the right houseshare in a rush isn’t actually mission impossible, and with a bit of insider knowledge it can be a breeze. So how do you get started?

Create a ‘room wanted’ ad

Need a room? Looking through search results and contacting advertisers is one way to do it, but setting up a ‘room wanted’ ad can make the process even faster. It’s really easy to do – just add a photo and a few lines about yourself, and watch potential housemates come flooding to you with rooms to offer. Don’t just take our word for it though – 53% of users said they wouldn’t reply to someone who contacted them without a ‘room wanted’ ad or profile. That’s a LOT of missed contacts. Set yours up here.

Go to a SpeedFlatmating event

Next up, book your place at a SpeedFlatmating event. We hold these every week in London (Angel, Clapham, Shoreditch, Covent Garden) and Manchester. You’ll meet loads of potential housemates offering rooms in one night, saving precious time – and you’ll be in a relaxed, social and safe setting.

The events have a mix of people – people looking for a room (like you), those searching for a new housemate to join them and those who want to find group of people to start a brand new tenancy with, called ‘Buddy up’ (click here to find out more).

So if you’re looking in Manchester or London check out one of our upcoming events and reserve your spot here.

Seize the chance to LiveRentFree

And then there’s the ULTIMATE way to ease your rental woes: not having to pay rent at all. Imagine going rent free for a month (or year!) – that blissful easy living, with a wad of cash to spend on whatever you like… Sounds like the dream, right? Well we can make it happen for you with our LiveRentFree competitions.

There’s a draw EVERY month (to cover one winner’s rent for a month) and a bigger annual competition that pays one winner’s rent for a whole year!

As you can see, there’s plenty you can do to find the right place in a short amount of time, so don’t panic! However if you have any other questions please head over to our website or get in touch with our Customer Service team who’ll be be happy to help.

8 things you NEED to know before you rent

If you’re about to rent for the first time there are a few things that might trip you up and a couple of misconceptions people have, especially about sharing. Thankfully, we’ve been there (and been tripped up by them ourselves) so can pass on some nuggets of hard-earned wisdom.

Here are our top tips.

1) 1 month’s rent and 4 weeks’ rent are not the same thing

This one catches pretty much everyone out at some point, yet it’s obvious once you know. Here’s how it works.

Let’s say your weekly rent is £150. If you multiply it by 4 you get £600. So that’s a month’s rent, right? Wrong.

There are 52 weeks in a year (£150 x 52 = £7,800)

…and there are 12 months in a year (£7,800 / 12 = £650)

…so there’s a £50 difference. Still with us? Good – that’s £600 extra a year (or an extra month’s rent based on the original dodgy calculation).

2) And your rent won’t necessarily include bills

Again, it might seem obvious…but if the advert doesn’t state that your rent price will include bills, don’t make any assumptions.

Generally moving into a flatshare with existing renters means you get to sidestep all of those boring admin tasks, like setting up bills and working out the monthly amount everyone owes – so you should be able to take over the lease and chip in what’s needed every month to cover the gas, electricity and water. Make sure you ask about average monthly bill costs when viewing the property, if this info wasn’t included in the room ad.

But if you’re taking on a new property in a group you’ll probably be fully responsible for setting up all the bills accounts. Soz. Although a tedious task, it’s worth shopping around various suppliers to get the best deal and keep the costs down for everyone in your flatshare. Sites like moneysupermarket and comparethemarket can do the job for you in a few clicks.

3) Not all flatshares have a living room

Yep, you read that right. When we asked over 10,000 flatsharers whether their property had a living room, we discovered that one in four of them don’t.

Now, that may be because the landlord turned the living room into a bedroom to squeeze more rent out of the property, or it might mean the tenants chose to use the living room as another bedroom so they pay less rent each.

Either way, don’t just presume. If you don’t see one, ask.

4) You don’t need to have a ready-made group of friends to share with

In fact, when we asked flatsharers who made the best flatmates, the most popular answer was ‘someone you don’t already know’. Living with friends can be great, but it can also be a real pain. Adding the burden of sorting out bills and arguing over whose turn it is to clean the toilet to your friendship might just push it over the edge.

As they say, live with a stranger and you might gain a friend, live with a friend and you might lose one*.

*OK, we don’t know who they are (or if they actually say this), but it’s true.

5) You don’t have to sign a 12 month lease

People new to renting tend to think you have to sign up for a year to move in somewhere. It’s true that 12 months is still the most common lease length, but there are other options. The majority of rooms you’ll see advertised in London, for example, are advertised by the existing tenants – often replacing someone who’s moving out. If there’s less than 12 months to go on their lease, then you’re not committing to a full year.

Even if you do sign for a year, most leases have a 6 month break clause in them.

6) And you might need to butter a parent up to act as a guarantor for you

If this is the first time you’ve EVER rented before, your landlord/agent will naturally be a little wary and will probably require some references so they can make sure you are who you say you are, you’re in a position to pay the rent every month, and you’re going to be a respectful and pleasant tenant (i.e. you’re not going to trash their property, or hold all-night neighbour-disturbing raves etc…).

If you’ve already started working life, the HR team at your work can sort a reference out for you. But if you’re just going into your first employment after graduation, your landlord might want a little more reassurance – and that’s where guarantors come in.

So what is it? Essentially, a guarantor is someone who will cover the cost of your rent if you fail to do so in any given month (i.e. you’re jobless and just don’t have the money). This gives your landlord an extra layer of reassurance that they’re going to get your rent for the duration of your tenancy, even if you can’t personally pay it. Generally a parent or close family member is the best person for the job, so ask them nicely because it’s a lot of money. And it goes without saying that regardless of having a guarantor in place, you should still be able to pay your own rent every month anyway.

7) You won’t get your deposit back till after you’ve moved out…

It might feel like a long time till you’re moving again – largely because you haven’t even found your first place yet! But when you hand over your deposit, it’s worth knowing you probably won’t get it back in time to use as the deposit for your next flat.

It’s one of the things that winds people up most about renting, but it’s a fact of life so be prepared and have a back-up plan for your next deposit.

8) …and there are some things you can do to make sure you get the full amount

There’s nothing more soul destroying than moving out of a property and losing half of your deposit in the process – usually because your landlord might charge you for leaving the property in a worse condition than when you moved in (broken furniture, marks on walls etc).

Don’t panic, though, because there are things you can do at the start of the tenancy to avoid getting saddled with hefty charges when you leave. Take photos before you’ve all moved your stuff in, so you have an accurate record of exactly what condition the property was in when you took it on – these might come in handy at the end of your tenancy if your landlord flags any damage. That said, your landlord shouldn’t charge you for anything that is considered to be reasonable wear and tear. It’s totally unrealistic to expect a tenant to keep EVERYTHING in pristine condition when they have to live in a property for a long period of time, after all!

Make sure everyone in your flatshare pays their rent on time every month too. It might sound obvious, but if one of your flatmates doesn’t pay their rent and you’re in a shared tenancy agreement, this amount could be docked from your deposit when you leave.

Now you’ve got the basic info you need, how about finding that flatshare? With over 90,000 room and flatmate ads on SpareRoom, there’s bound to be one that suits you.

Here’s why you shouldn’t move home after you graduate…

The allure of your mum’s Sunday roast… the cheap/non-existent rent… after graduation, there’s a LOT of temptation to ditch your new-found freedom and retreat back to comfy nest of your childhood home.

But once the post-exam wind-down is over and it’s time to think about careers and real life again, that safe haven with your parents can be tough – especially after those blissful uni years full of freedom.

So here’s the reasons why you shouldn’t move home after uni. Don’t say we didn’t warn you…

Expectation: I’ll get snapped up for work RIGHT AWAY so I won’t even have to be at home much anyway.

Reality: Unless you’ve devoted hours of your final year to applying for every graduate scheme you can, it’s unlikely you’re going to waltz out of uni and straight into that dream job. Soz. Which means you’re also going to be at home a lot more than you’d bargained for, probably with a parent hovering at close range to ask how many jobs you’ve applied for today/if you’re planning on changing out of your PJs at any point. NOT the duvet-day dream you’d hoped for. You’ll also probably be a lot further away from the big city and its career opportunities, which means missing out on roles because you can’t get to interviews quickly.

Expectation: It might be a nice opportunity for us all to bond again, like when I was a teenager!

Reality: Sure, spending extra time with your family is nice. But so is being able to come and go without telling anyone, staying out as late as you want without the fear of waking someone up at 3am, and not being told off for snacking just before dinner. In truth, your life has changed A LOT in the last three years, and your new experience of being an independent adult might make for a really difficult adjustment when you move back in (and your parents still treat you like you’re 17).

Expectation: I’m gonna be ROLLING in disposable cash to do whatever I like, because as if my parents will charge me any rent…

Reality: If you’re very lucky, your parents might be happy for you to live at home for free – but that sense of guilt will soon catch up with you, my friend. Your parents will probably get pretty annoyed if you doss around all day and treat their place like your own personal hotel and will expect some compensation – which means someone’s bound to be nagging you to do chores, do your own washing, and make your own dinner. A far cry from those lovely uni days of being able to let laundry accumulate for two weeks, eat at any hour of the day, and dodge the cleaning for as long as humanly (and hygienically) possible.

Sure, you might save some money. But you’ll be missing out on spending that money in all manner of memory-making, fun ways with your friends: the rooftop yoga, tasting menus at fancy restaurants, and the spontaneous post-work drinks and dancing. They’re probably not going to feel the same while you’re watching them via Instagram.

Expectation: Okay, it might be a bit of a drag but I’ll get to see my friends at the weekends. Which makes it all worth it, right?

Reality: A lot of your friends might come back straight after uni, but they’re bound to slowly start moving away once they get jobs lined up. Soon they’ll be all settled in to their swanky new city flatshares, drinking espresso martinis on a Thursday night with all their new work friends while you’re left with a bad case of FOMO on the way back to your parents’ house, waiting for the signal failure just outside Watford to be fixed. Sorry, the truth hurts. Oh, and have you checked out how much peak hour trains cost these days?

Not to mention that on those rare times you do get to stay in London, you end up having to dutifully succumb to the discomfort of a friend’s sofa/floor/broken blow-up mattress yet again. Sigh.

Expectation: The food is going to be AMAZING.

Reality: Fair enough. You’ve upgraded from a fridge filled with mouldy baked beans, gone-off milk and Sainsbury’s basics vodka. Go and enjoy that smorgasbord of fine fruit, an endless supply of bacon and some deluxe cheeses (with M&S crackers). We won’t take this one away from you.

However, if you can do without the sourdough sandwiches and want to avoid a life of missed career opportunities, parental rows and lost freedom, why not try flatsharing? We’ve got over 90,000 rooms and flatmates waiting. Find yours, and be free!

Why you SHOULDN’T move to London after you graduate

So, you’ve graduated. Jump right in to the best summer of your LIFE, celebrating, reconnecting with old friends back home and blowing off some serious post-exam steam. And then what?

The super-organised amongst you will have some sort of postgraduate job scheme in the bag, and we salute you. Go forth and enjoy that steady employment.

But the rest of you will probably find yourselves in an inevitable state of panic: what do I do? Where do I do it? And how do I even go about all of this adulting stuff?!

First of all, breathe. Then listen. Because we’ve got a mega bombshell that might just change everything: you don’t have to move to London. You can go other places, earn a better salary and get a cheaper pint. Let’s talk about where.

1. Liverpool

www.davejohnsonsphotography.wordpress.com

Where?
Famous for the Beatles, two Premiership football teams and a whole load of Scouse culture – Liverpool is a buzzy choice for the next chapter of adult life. Stunning architecture (cathedral included) meets plenty of green parks, and the craft beer scene is one of the UK’s most thriving. Career-wise, Liverpool is diverse – with the biggest opportunities available in transport, creative, digital and business services, as well as life sciences and bio-manufacturing enterprises. Essentially, a broad economy – and that’s without all those jobs at Liverpool F.C…

What will I get?
Pints for £2.90 (they’re £4.50 in London). It’s a small price to pay from your £33,967 average annual grad salary, even after you’ve spent £367 every month on a room – you’ll have £1,734 left to do as you please.

2. Reading

Where?
Often unfairly dismissed as just a London commuter town, Reading is actually a bit of a gem – with a rich history and plenty to do. It’s a great place to be if you’re after a job in IT, and you’re only a 30-min train away from London and its plethora of grad opportunities – and that’s before 2018’s Crossrail  launch that will get you to office hotspots like Farringdon, Liverpool Street and Canary Wharf even faster. In your downtime you can enjoy the lovely stretch of riverside, the Henley Regatta, great shopping and the annual (and epic) Reading Festival.

What will I get?
A room for £551 a month which a tiny chunk of your £30,225 annual salary. Leaving you plenty of pennies every month (£1,366 to be precise) for those £3.65 pints.

3. Bristol

www.prestigeapartments.co.uk

Where?
Bristol pretty much does it all, and is a thriving site for industries from construction, trade and transportation to professional scientific and technical jobs, human health and social work roles. It’s also been named in the Sunday Times as the best place to live in the UK in 2017, so you’ve got plenty of bragging rights. Famed for Banksy, Brunel, its lively DnB scene and for inventing Ribena, Bristol is a pretty waterside city with plenty to do – giant shopping centres, a vibrant nightlife, great culture and an epic annual hot air balloon festival (to name but a few).

What will I get?
A room for £478, which will come from your £27,102 average annual salary. You’ll have £1,285 left after rent each month, so those £3.80 Bristolian pints are hardly a push for you either.

4. Nottingham

http://www.curiousabout.co.uk/nottingham

Where?
Nottingham is famed for its role in the legend of Robin Hood. It’s also home to a large contemporary art gallery (Nottingham Contemporary), a multitude of exciting live music venues, tons of vintage stores and even a deer-filled park and an ACTUAL CASTLE. Once you’ve nailed your dream job in one of the top law firms or brands (Boots, Capital One, Experian etc), you can regale your friends with plenty of fun anecdotes about Notts: did you know the MRI scanner was invented here? And Supermarket Sweep was once produced here? Po from the Tellytubbies is a famous city alumnus…

What will I get?
A tidy £25,750 annual grad salary to spend on a meagre £384 rent and £3.23 pints. And a smug feeling that you’ve still got £1,313 left to play with every month after rent.

5. Birmingham

Where?
You know, one of the recently voted top 10 places to live in the UK and the most populated UK city outside of London. There’s a thriving nightlife, AMAZING curry, Cadbury World, a giant shopping mall and a Sea Life centre where you can see real life sharks. If you want to sample Birmingham’s real history, there’s 114 miles of navigable canals to stroll along, i.e. it’s basically the UK’s answer to Venice. With big career opportunities in manufacturing, engineering and digital, financial and business services (amongst many others) there’s plenty of reasons persuading you to be more Brummie.

What will I get?
£404 rent for a start, which will hardly damage your £26,046 salary – you’ll still have £1,307 in your pocket every month after rent. And there’s pints for £3.50.

6. Leeds

www.weetwood.co.uk

Where?
The third biggest city in the UK, and the capital of Yorkshire – Leeds is an inspiring place, a mere stone’s throw from the beautiful rolling landscapes of the Yorkshire countryside. If you’re planning on staying central you won’t be disappointed either, with endless opportunity for shopping and eating, and an exciting nightlife in the Northern Quarter. There’s also the annual Leeds Festival to look forward to… When it comes to jobs, you’re best placed for roles in education, law, public admin and agriculture. And you’re never far from a mean Yorkshire pudding either.

What will I get?
A comfortable £24,800 grad salary, £386 rent and £1,241 left each month to put towards £3.50 pints. And maybe a Northern accent.

Wherever you end up living, make sure you end up in the right flatshare. We’ve got over 95,000 rooms on SpareRoom, making finding great new flatmates and the ideal home in your new stomping ground as straightforward as possible.

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!)