Finding a home

The lack of affordable - and available - homes is a major cause of concern for single Christians.  So what are the choices? From buying and renting to sharing and lodging this article examines the options to suit your finances and points you in the direction of where to go for further advice.

Finding the right place to live can be challenging for singles. We explore the options, depending on your finances and where you'll thrive

By Catherine Francis 

          'I have my own place. I love my independence, but I’m sometimes lonely.'

'I’m a bit embarrassed to be living in a shared house at my age, but I enjoy life with my flatmates.'

'I’m a lodger in a family house. I have less freedom but I like the homely atmosphere.'

As a single person, where you live, and who you live with, is a major life decision. Is your goal to buy your own place? What about renting, on your own or with others? Is it embarrassing to live with your parents in your thirties and beyond?

With accommodation becoming increasingly expensive and scarce, especially in big cities, buying or even renting alone isn’t an option for everyone. And as singles, we’re under particular pressure. Recent research found that on average, a single person would have to save for 10 years longer than a couple to get a deposit for their first home (13 years compared to three). In London, it’s even worse – the average couple would have to save for eight years to buy their first home, whereas a single person would take 46 years!

However, on the positive side, singles sometimes have more flexibility than couples or families. With some lateral thinking, you can find a living arrangement to suit you.

Buying a home

Many of us aspire to own a property – both as a stable place to live, and as an investment. Depending on your income and local property prices, this may be within your reach. To secure a mortgage, you’ll need to demonstrate that you can afford the repayments. You’ll also need a deposit (normally at least 5%) and be able to cover other costs, such as stamp duty and solicitor’s fees. An independent financial advisor or mortgage broker (visitwww.unbiased.co.uk) can help you assess your finances, explain different types of mortgages and secure you the best deal. Many Christians favour more ethical banks, such as Triodos or Co-operative. There are also a number of Government schemes to help people get on the property ladder, such as help-to-buy equity loans, the new Help To Buy ISA and shared home ownership schemes. Find out more at www.gov.uk/affordable-home-ownership-schemes and www.helptobuy.gov.uk.

If you have your own place, you may relish going home to an empty house at the end of the day, or you may find it rather lonely. If you have a spare room, you could consider renting it to a lodger, to provide company and some extra cash for yourself (the first £4,250 is tax-free), and a friendly, affordable home for someone else.

Rachel, 44, who works in banking in London, says:

'As soon as I got my first job, I started saving for a deposit while living with my parents in Nottingham. At 23, I bought my first flat. I mortgaged myself to the max, and had to cut back on all non-essentials, even taking packed lunches to work to save money, but it was worth it as I loved having my own place. As my career progressed, I moved to London and got a larger mortgage to buy a two-bedroom flat here. After interest rates dropped and I continued paying the same monthly amount, I’m now on target to pay off my mortgage early. I love having my own flat. I’m a bit of a control freak, and I can have everything just the way I like it! I enjoy having friends round and guests to stay, but I also love it when everyone leaves and I have my own space.'

Renting alone

Many people in other countries think the Brits’ obsession with owning our homes is rather eccentric! In Germany, for instance, renting is the norm – it’s seen as a low-hassle way of living, with predictable outgoings and a landlord who deals with (and pays for) repairs and improvements.

If you can’t or don’t want to buy a property at this stage in your life, renting may be for you. Renting privately or through an estate agent is more costly, but can give you greater choice and control. Make sure you know and protect your rights as a tenant – there’s lots of helpful information at www.citizensadvice.org.uk/housing/renting-a-home/. If you’re on a lower income, you may be eligible for social housing – more affordable rental properties owned by local councils or housing associations. However, there may be a waiting list and people in urgent situations are often given priority. Contact your local authority to find out what’s available. There are also Christian housing associations and housing trusts around the country – search online to find any local to you.

Sally, 54, a freelance lecturer from Warwickshire, says:

'After a period of unemployment and homelessness following domestic violence, I now rent a two-bedroom housing association apartment in a rural village. Social housing is often maligned but I love it here. There are only six flats in the block, I get on well with my neighbours (most are graduates, which may surprise people), and there’s a big garden to sit in, which I do regularly with my neighbour, sharing a G&T in the sun. I believe God provided this flat for me. It’s brand new, the rent is a third less than the private market, and it feels more secure than a private tenancy (although repairs and services can be slow). I’d love to have my own garden and front door one day, but for now I’m very happy here.'

Joining a houseshare

Living alone is sometimes seen as a mark of adulthood, but spiralling rents mean it’s too expensive for many people. In any case, living alone isn’t the happiest or healthiest option for everyone, and can lead to feeling lonely and isolated. A flatshare or houseshare is a positive choice for many singles – either palling up with friends and finding somewhere to suit you, or moving into an established houseshare. There may be competition for the bathroom and occasional disagreements over housework, but a houseshare radically reduces rental costs and bills, and many people thoroughly enjoy cooking, eating and socialising together.

Finding a flatmate can be a challenge especially as friends start to find their own places. There are of course a number of websites the largest of which is www.spareroom.co.uk which provides the biggest choice. They also have sessions similar to "speeddating" where you can identify potential people on the spot. Another good site is www.roombuddies.co.uk/.

You can find Christian houseshares on www.christianflatshare.org. This site is smaller but more focussed.

And inevitably there is Gumtree one the largest resources in the UK.

There are also management agencies such as www.kingdomhouses.co.uk. Or spread the word through your church, work and social networks that you’re looking for others to share with. Sharing regular practices, such as praying together, saying grace or a weekly Bible study, can help you create a ‘household of faith’, where you and your housemates encourage each other’s faith and bring Christ into the centre of your home life.

Vanessa, 45, a customer services assistant from London, says:

'I share a lovely flat with two other ladies. I initially had two different flatmates when I moved in four years ago, after finding it on www.christianflatshare.org. When they moved on, my current flatmates moved in. Still renting in my 40s isn’t ideal – I’d prefer to have bought somewhere by now, but there’s no way I can afford to in London. This is much cheaper than renting alone, plus it’s nice to see people when I get home after work. My flatmates and I often discuss matters of faith, as God is part of our lives. I think it’s good and healthy to live in community, and I’ve been flatsharing quite happily for 20 years.'

Living with parents

Still living at home with mum and dad may be the stuff of jokes, with the image of someone who has never grown up, and whose mum still makes their packed lunch and washes their underpants! However, in many countries, multi-generation households is the norm. In fact, research shows that people who live with family are often healthier and live longer.

There’s no shame in living with your parents if you’re all happy with the arrangement, as long as you pull your weight financially and with household chores, and don’t continue to live like a teenager. In fact, as your parents age, having extra support at home may be invaluable, so everyone wins.

Maddie, 43, a graphic designer from Surrey, says:

'When I went self-employed 12 years ago, I gave up my rented flat and moved back in with my parents. I don’t always find it easy living at home, as I crave my own space. However, with rents so high in the south-east, it has allowed me to avoid that heavy financial pressure while working in a precarious creative field, and I’ve been able to travel and pursue my artistic interests. My dad was very ill for some time, and living at home also allowed me to help care for him and spend time with him before he died. I’m now keen to get my own place again, and I’m taking steps to enable me to do that.'

Becoming a lodger

Renting a room in someone’s home – be it a single person, couple or family – can offer a different experience to renting alone or housesharing. The rent is often cheaper, it’s usually all-inclusive, and most housework is taken care of. Plus, with the owners living there, maintenance issues tend to be dealt with more efficiently. Many lodgers say they enjoy the homely atmosphere and being part of family life, depending on the arrangements you and your landlord decide on.

Make sure you agree all your rights and responsibilities before moving in, such as what’s included in the rent, areas of the house you can use, and the notice period to end the tenancy. It's really important, especially for the landlord, to ensure you can ask somebody to leave if it is not working out - by putting in clear review periods - avoid a vague open ended situation. It is easier for the tenant just to move out - not so easy for a landlord to give notice to somebody. Get a contract for your protection (standard contracts are available from WHSmith).

Vicky, 27, a scientist from Hertfordshire, says:

'I’m a quiet person and found houseshares a bit noisy and chaotic. Being a lodger in a private home suits me better. This is my third lodger tenancy, and I was put in touch with my current landlady by my pastor. There’s a different dynamic to being a tenant in someone else’s home, compared to being an equal member of a houseshare, and sometimes you can feel like a bit of an outsider. However, the atmosphere tends to be more peaceful and homely, the rent is often cheaper, and it feels more personal and less commercial. I’ve also enjoyed some perks of family life, including time with children and pets.'

Alternative options:

Homeshare There are a number of related schemes to bring together people looking for a home with people who need care and companionship. You get a room in a house for a very small cost in return for limited duties such as a weekly shop and a shared meal.

House sitting And there are housesitting sites - which provide opportunities to house sit for people who are going on holiday or extended travel. It usually involves caring for pets but one can still go out to work and live life as normal. Some people manage to spend large parts of their year house sitting - for others it can be a welcome break to enjoy a large place to yourself for a week or two.

Related information:

Christian Flatshare is a national website linking up people looking for accommodation with those offering it, including flatshares.

Kingdom Houses is an accommodation agency specialising in Christian houseshares.

Spare Room is the largest accommodation sharing website. You can put in a keyword Christian and that can narrow it down.

Room Buddies allows religion to be part of the search criteria.

Homeshare an opportunity to share accommodation usually with an older person.

House sitting one of a number of good house sitting sites.

For advice on accommodation rights and responsibilities, and what to do if things go wrong, visit Citizens Advice.

For information on housing available in your area and how to access it, visit www.gov.uk/browse/housing-local-services and your local authority website.

Church leaders, we have a page here to help you advise and assist single members of your congregation with accommodation dilemmas.

25 April 2016 Edited 7 May to include more options for sharing houses.