‘We gave up owning a home to move to a hamlet in the south of France’

Could you tell me a bit about you and your life?

I’m 38, work for myself from home as a recruiter, and married my partner of 11 years, who is a very talented graffiti artist, about 2 years ago. I switched to freelance and part-time work about 5 years ago as I’m also quite creative and wanted to prioritise some time to explore that. Our daughter just turned 3, and we have a dog, a cat, a tortoise, and this weekend, we will be collecting 4 chicks to join our menagerie!

Where did you live before the big move?

The exact opposite of our current setting. We owned a 50m^2 ex-local authority flat with a tiny balcony in Brixton, on the 4th floor of a block with 27 flats. The only similarity was the lovely community; we lived next to Brockwell Park and always bumped into friends and neighbours. Everyone in our block looked out for each other, especially since the pandemic. We lived there for 7 years.

Where do you live now and what’s your lifestyle like?

We moved to the south of France 2 years ago. It’s an hour drive from Montpellier and Nîmes, in a national park called the Cévennes. We live in the equivalent of a hamlet, about a 15-minute cycle to the nearest town. We rent a 330m^2 house with a massive garage, a big garden, and a pool. It’s quiet, but there’s a lot going on in the community; our neighbours are really friendly, and the area is beautiful, with rivers, cliffs, big birds of prey, and wild boar.

How has renting been a better option for you?

After our daughter was born, we realised something had to change; we were bursting at the seams in our flat, renting a studio for my husband, and desperate for more space. Even with a full-time, senior role, we were priced out of our beloved area. So, we opted for a major life change and moved to France! My husband is French, which facilitated our move post-Brexit. Renting seemed much less daunting and offered a "try before you buy" situation, especially as we ventured into a new country and a more rural lifestyle.

How do you feel about the pressure to own and the notion that buying is a sign of progress/adulthood?

Having owned previously, I’ve changed my view on homeownership. While it forced us to save via mortgage payments, we faced high maintenance fees and unexpected costs. The fees involved in buying or selling are substantial, making it difficult to profit unless staying long-term and adding value. For me, adulthood is about having a plan that offers stability and security, which does not solely revolve around owning a house. It could even hinder progress by tying you to a lifestyle that doesn’t suit you.

Do you have any advice for someone feeling the pressure to buy their own place?

My father advised only to buy if you're willing to live there for at least 10 years and if it would still be a viable option even in difficult times. He also recommended not borrowing the maximum amount to give some financial breathing space. Renting offers flexibility to explore new lifestyles without the commitment, which can be valuable for discovering what truly matters to you. Consider your priorities and whether buying fits into your future plans, especially with a fixed income.

Is there anything you do to invest/continue to grow your money, even though you don’t own a home?

Currently, we’re not focusing on financial investments but have significantly reduced our outgoings, allowing my husband to pursue his dream of being an artist. He’s about to start a part-time job to help us save more, and I’m keen to learn about investing. We’ve invested in our dreams, family time, and living a life aligned with our values, which for me is priceless.


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