An open letter to Strutt & Parker, from a Generation Renter
Dear Mr Strutt & Mr Parker,
Before I unpack the hilarity of your baseless claims regarding homeownership, let me first tell a short story.
Back in 2014 when I entered the working world and stumbled into my first London-based content role after six long, penniless months of graduate job hunting, I received my first payslip. I remember the moment vividly; the many plans I’d had for the pitiful salary I now got to call my own. I tore along the dotted lines and my fate was sealed: I was a victim of the taxman, my landlord and my utilities bills. Once I’d paid my dues and my then “reasonable” £500 monthly rent, I was left virtually penniless again. Nothing to put away for a long-desired holiday, and nothing left to even treat myself to a Sainsbury's Taste the Difference salad for lunch.
Three years and a salary boost later, the joy of a payslip has long tarnished. Ever-increasing rent prices have still managed to eat away at least 50% of an actually decent income each month, and my savings account has been laughing at me since 2014 – with a pitiful 2 pence forlornly abandoned within. Sure, I get to enjoy the odd happy hour and meal out nowadays, but the infrequency is pretty alarming for a so-called “millennial”.
At this point, I imagine you’ll be blaming my lack of savings on my once-weekly (at best) Planet Organic coffee (£2.20), or pointing fingers at take out lunches (usually £6 a pop, never more than twice a month)? Or perhaps it’s the two weekends away I had last year (to Europe, under £150 each thanks to Skyscanner). Maybe the five avocados it’s assumed I purchase every week (it’s actually one per fortnight for me). Or maybe it’s all of those lottery tickets I’ve literally NEVER bought? The imaginary nights out at the pub where I’ll buy everyone in the venue a shot...?
You’re right, these are all things that would almost certainly stop me having a disposable income. I’d definitely have nothing to put away towards a deposit on a shoebox-sized new build flat in Mitcham.
I’m just gonna nominate myself as the voice of a generation here, but nobody lives their life like that. Nobody I know on their average 20-something income fires off £100 every time they enter a bar. Nobody heads to Ottolenghi for a daily £10 salad without batting an eyelid. Nobody spends £50 every week on bloody Domino’s (which, let’s face it, is undeniably gross unless you’re hungover). Nobody drops a casual four figures on upgrading to iPhone X. Oh and literally NOBODY has a weekly lottery “habit”...
Most of us are at home, desperately meal-prepping industrial vats of lentil dhal lunches that we’ll get tired of by day three but will still dutifully freeze, ready for next month’s stint of financial desperation. We’re wearing three jumpers and sleeping under two duvets because the heating bill is ridiculous and we can’t afford it until next payday. We’re squishing avocados in the veg aisle at Tesco Express, figuring out if they’re ripe enough but more importantly wondering if we should even stretch to buy one this week anyway. We’re in Pizza Express with our mates questioning if we’re petty for arguing over the £3 service charge.
More importantly, we’re spending a year in financial turmoil suffering the shockwaves from ridiculous tenancy deposits and unnecessary fees that estate agents like you demand for an hour’s work on a 20-page tenancy agreement. Moving on average once a year and shelling out £500 of fees every time means that effectively in the last three years, I’ve wasted £1500 of never seen again cash on just finding somewhere to live – a pretty basic human necessity if you ask me. That could have bought me 500 sandwiches at Pret. Which is probably a more enjoyable, fulfilling and sustainable expenditure anyway.
Sure, cutting out the small pleasures I do occasionally enjoy in life – the voucher-sponsored Byron burger trips, the 2-for-1 cocktails, the odd spend on a new pair of boots – would save me some money. But they’d also cost me my social life, my happiness, and I still wouldn’t be able to afford a deposit anyway. I’d probably just be able to get to next month a little easier.
And those that can and do fund the allure of a daily crayfish sandwich from Pret? Good for them. They probably don’t want to give up a tasty £3 lunch in the hope that in five year’s time they might have enough £3’s saved to put a deposit down on an overpriced Zone 5 bedsit. For that, I don’t blame them.
When the bottom rung has been snatched from the ladder, and the goal posts have been moved so incredibly far away – what would you do? Would you revert back to student days and exist on 40p tinned soup, to put precious pennies away for something that might never be possible? Or would you just live, and make the best you can of it. Share your flat, make good friends and even better memories, and try to get by the best you can with what you have left (minding the gap between your income and your rent).
I think I know what I’d choose.