In my journey towards buying a house and financial independence I’ve made a few lifestyle changes in order to save massive amounts of money One of these has been to share my living space with an array of strangers with varying degrees of manners and personal hygiene. The nice way of putting this is that I’ve lived in Houses of Multiple Occupancy. In a way I’ve lived in a HMO my whole life because I’ve always shared a house with family when I lived at my parents home or friends when I moved out, so it can’t be that different… Can it?
What’s a HMO?
For those of you who don’t know, essentially I pay to rent one room within a house where all rooms share amenities like a kitchen, bathrooms and living rooms etc. Usually in a HMO all bills are included and you pay one flat fee for rent, utilities, council tax, wifi- sometimes even Netflix which is a welcome bonus!.
Not my HMO
Why do HMOs exist?
If the house was worth say, £900 to rent out per month for the owner and has 3 bedrooms that they can get £500 each for then it’s more profitable for an owner to do so, even after bills are deducted. They also aren’t at as high a risk to the owner of having no income that month. Whereas in a typical rental house you have one tenant and if they leave you have zero tenants, if you have 3 bedrooms to share then one tenant leaves, you still have 2 tenants making 2/3rds of your income rather than 0/3rds. Of course, it’s therefore less likely to have a full house at the same time however these types of houses are popular in student areas and with young professionals who typically want to rent for a good length of time.
The benefits of a HMO
1- Due to the fact that they’re less stressed about having an empty house, I find HMO landlords to be much kinder and willing to repair things than typical single unit landlords. You get better support and contact with your landlord when you need to talk about an issue in the house. Due to the fact that most HMOs are Buy-to-Let rather than mortgaged, your Landlords tend to be in better financial positions and are more likely to charge reasonable rates.
2-Because of this HMOs are a fantastic deal for people wanting to live on the cheap. I’ve lived in 3 HMOs that respectively have cost me £280 a month for a single room, £250 a month for a double room and £350 for a double room shared with my partner. Considering that renting a house can be £600 between two people in the same areas and you have another £400 on top for bills this is a great deal of savings over the course of the year. This is the main reason that I chose to live in a HMO, it trumps renting if your main goal is to save for the future.
2- As stated above, all of the bills are included in one monthly fee. This works as a great mid-point for young people to start learning about paying your bills. You have one standing order or direct debit to worry about every month instead of four or five. This makes it easier to plan, budget and pay on time with only one payment to think of.
3- With the high number of people living in your house, you have the chance to meet many new people without ever leaving your house. No more clubbing and going out to the pub, just walk to the kitchen and grab yourself a drink with your new housemates! We recently pimped up our garden and with the weather being nice we often all sit outside and socialise or do our own things in each other’s company. A friend of mine in my current house has really helped me to keep fit as she walks her dogs every day for a couple of hours and I often embark* on that trip with her, unless I’d been on a walk with her I wouldn’t know the area nearly as well as I do!
4- Due to the fact you have a smaller space to deal with, living in a HMO is a great way to become more minimalistic. You have to be brutal about what belongings you take with you into a HMO as too much can mean your space is cluttered and unpleasant! I’m frequently eBaying things that I no longer think are earning their place in my home and freeing up space for things that do. It’s also encouraged me to be more frugal and not be buying new things which has in turn saved me more money.
Moving into HMO No.3.
5-I’ve managed to live in 3 separate towns thanks to renting in a HMO and each time I’ve been able to prioritise my journey to work wherever I chose. This is not something I would feel comfortable doing in regards to buying a house and renting as they’re both very long-term agreements. With a HMO you can often get a 3 months rental deal and then extend it as you feel fit and so it gives you the opportunity to live in places you wouldn’t otherwise have experienced. For families this may not work, however as a young person this has given me more life experience and more knowledge about the country I call home.
The Cons of a HMO
1-The obvious con to this one is the limited space you have access to in the house. This sometimes manifests itself in a cluttered bedroom that you have to work to keep on top of. Sometimes it’s in a fridge that’s far too full and someone else is using part of your shelf for their own food. It’s very akin to living with your parents and almost everything you own needs to return to your bedroom at the end of the day or else you will be grounded.
2-Due to the fact that often 4 or 5 people are looking to shower and cook their meals in the evening you will find that you have to work out when you cook your meals each day to make sure you get to use the kitchen and bathroom. With different working patterns and living with reasonable people you find that this doesn’t cause too much of an issue. If you’re a normal human being you’ll be able to speak to your housemates about needing a shower after the gym or find out that they’ll be done cooking in 15 minutes. It only becomes an issue if you’re pressed for time so it’s worth having a few easy meals that you know how to make in the microwave.
3-The most annoying thing about living in a HMO is that you all have to share the same kitchen utensils. This becomes a particular problem in our house where we have 6 people alive and breathing here and only 4 pans in which to cook… can you do the maths there? The BIGGEST issue comes when people decide to batch cook a huge meal without preparing any of their Tupperware or having anywhere to store said batch meals and they take the biggest (and best) pan in the house out of service for the evening and force everyone else to do more washing up! Do yourself a favour and buy your own pans. You won’t regret it when you see your housemates defrosting 5kg of raw chicken on the counter in one of the shared pans.
4-I have a beautiful cat whom I love more than I love myself and she lives with us in our HMO which is fantastic for us but I imagine slightly dull for her and it’s something to consider that if you have a pet, a HMO is a small space for them to exist and so they will be relying on you a lot more for entertainment and regular feeding and definitely make sure they have plenty of water and open windows. My cat sleeps most of the day and doesn’t bother too much however I bought some toys for her to make sure she’s always stimulated and playing.
My love, my life, my kitty.
5-Quiet sex. I think I’ve said enough.
6- Different temperature opinions cause a bit of frustration in our house as I run rather hot myself and need the windows open all of the time however SOMEONE in the house started playing with the boiler settings and have the heating on every four hours for 2 hours at a time! a few others in the house got very irritable and we worried that the bills would be so high, our rent would increase. Again the key here is to be a human being and have that conversation in order to come to a compromise. If you and your housemates view an issue differently, find out what’s most important to both of you and see how you can make it work that suits both parties.
Overall the benefits of saving money and experiencing new things has made living in a HMO so enjoyable that we’d like to have lodgers in our own house when we buy this year! It’s an important step towards becoming an adult and learning to co-exist with other people in the world that you are likely to be ignorant about to start off with. We could all use a bit more insight into other people’s lives to make us more understanding and to help us grow. I’ve really enjoyed living in a HMO and I hope that you’ll look into it next time you need to move house, It has been the number one contributor to my savings rate and over 3 years has contributed £11,240 to my house deposit! If done right with the aim to save, you will be there in no time!
*I couldn’t help myself.