Your Mortgage: Refreshing your rental now for your future home

By Brett Mundinger
Marketing Project Manager, Fountain Mortgage

I recently decided I needed to do a refresh of my rental apartment downtown if I wanted to avoid going stir crazy while waiting to buy a first house. I’m a chronic ‘wait and see-er’, so I’m trusting my gut instinct that now isn’t the right time for me to go house hunting. Waiting has its consequences though, and I’m trying to make peace with them. Could I buy a house now? Definitely. Is it the right time for my situation?

*shrugs*  

There are articles making great points for both sides of the buying argument, and Fountain Mortgage is obviously here for you if you’re interested in house hunting. But we also care about those who are waiting a while to enter the market. We love first-time homebuyers, but if you, a family member, or a relative are waiting, here’s a great plan for making your space work a little longer for you while you wait to make a move. Start feeling better about staying put by refreshing your current space now for your someday home. 

Okay, so what does refreshing for your someday home now mean? Put simply, you should start making decor and design transformations slowly over the duration of your planned rental period that will immediately translate to any space you eventually buy. With a little planning, you should be able to pick up new furniture, decor, and other items and instantly have a design template for the same area of your house you’ll purchase in the future. It means buying the modern, family-sized dinner table you’ve been drooling over for the past year. It means investing in that sectional you’ve wanted but have been holding off on.

Sounds expensive, right? It’s an investment, but one you can slowly make over time instead of all at once. After all, you were about to buy a house before, and you would’ve spent money to get new stuff after move in. Plus, I’m going to throw a bunch of very affordable ideas and sites your way, so keep reading!

Why shouldn’t you spend a year refreshing your space? If you do it right, some cosmetic changes alongside good buying choices should enable you to copy/paste most of your current look to your new space, plus you get the benefit of your rental feeling much better if you decide to stay put.

Spending a lot of money on a down payment, closing costs, and moving goes down better when you have the majority of the new furniture you want for your new space already purchased before you ever shop for your new home. Money replenishes easily when spent within reason, so why not invest in your happiness now? Here’s a breakdown of how I did just that.

Personally, I rent an 860 sq ft. shotgun-style apartment in Crossroads, and with older buildings come some unique challenges. As sexy as an exposed-brick warehouse loft sounds, the reality is that it’s just like any other place and has some issues since it wasn’t originally designed to house twenty and thirty-somethings. I detest moving, and here is the list I initially made of what wasn’t working in my space and needed changed:

● Low amounts of natural light coming from my one (albeit large) window

● A squished, combined feel to everything  (basic shotgun-style apartment problems)

● A cramped and cold-feeling kitchen

● A sterile, colorless bathroom design

● Small furniture not fit for movie nights or entertaining despite a large living room

● No areas for reading and lounging away from technology

Begin by marking out your apartment for individual uses or zones where you do different things, then create a plan to slowly transform each space one by one. The key, in my opinion, is to develop distinct-feeling areas of your apartment that clearly serve one purpose and are decorated or set up in a unique way to overcome the feeling of being squished together. The office section should feel like a complete unit separate from the reading nook, the dining room space separate from the adjacent entertainment area, etc.

You can overcome even a small, cramped space if being in one area feels distinct enough with its design choices. Likewise, larger pieces can often make a space feel bigger by extension, so house-size furniture can absolutely be purchased while you’re still renting.

Here are some things I’ve done or am planning to do to refresh my current space:

Refreshed my kitchen ($235 excluding lights) 

  • Removed doors on the cabinets above the sink and put them into storage ($0)
  • Bought a new dish set and wood cabinet stackers to display tableware vertically ($120)
  • Put up patterned contact paper on the back wall of cabinets ($15)
  • Placed cookbooks from living room bookshelf stacked in open cabinets ($0)
  • Arranged statement dishware/cookware in the open and put non-show items behind closed doors
  • Cleared countertops of all but statement kitchen gear (white Kitchenaid, enameled Dutch oven, etc.)
  • Purchased new wall art ($100)

Updated all apartment lighting ($230) 

  • Installed Sengled smart strip lights on top of kitchen cabinets ($20)
  • Installed Sengled smart bulbs in all areas except bathroom ($210)
  • Set up different programmed scenes for different temperatures of light throughout the day
  • Programmed sunset/dimming feature for night

Purchased or financed new furniture ($2300) 

  • Financed a sectional sofa ($1600 over 12 months)
  • Invested in a big kitchen table ($300)
  • Purchased a plush chair and coffee table for a new reading nook ($400)

Refreshed my bathroom scheme ($230) 

  • Purchased coordinating towel set, bath mat, and shower curtain ($130)
  • Swapped out towel racks with new hardware ($40)
  • Replaced all bathroom cabinet door handles ($30)
  • Swapped all bathroom lights with mock incandescent (coil) bulbs ($30)

Refresh decor ($500) 

  • Purchase new wall art for living room ($300)
  • Greenified living spaces with plants ($100)
  • Purchased new wall art for bathroom ($100)

If you haven’t guessed it yet, I’m a planner at heart. The upside to giving your space a facelift is that it feels different and better as you wait longer than anticipated to purchase your new home. Now you get to space out the spending you’d have to do on the front end of buying a new home. Will there still be some buying of new things to fill your first home? Yes, certainly, but you’ll already have the template of upgrades you just slowly spent money on. You’ll need to spend substantially less on new decor after moving in.

It’s working for me and has provided a fun project to slowly work on as I wait to buy a home. Here are six resources I’ve utilized for refreshing my space:

Society Sixhttps://society6.com/prints

My personal favorite spots for art prints at a reasonable price. They have tons of styles and just about anything decor for walls. It’s great quality stuff without the art gallery stuffiness.

Apartment Therapyhttps://www.apartmenttherapy.com/

This long-running inspo website is a personal favorite of mine and a place to go to dream about crafting your perfect, cool space. It’s also an amazing site to steal ideas from. They sell decor on their site as well, but it’s a bit pricey versus other sites, so I only window shop there.

Castleryhttps://www.castlery.com/us

I love this shop for its vast furniture offerings at a nice price point you can pay over time. They cut out the middle-person in the business chain by designing, building, and shipping everything themselves. The result is higher quality furniture without a giant markup and is similar what Warby Parker is doing with eyeglasses.

Sengled https://us.sengled.com/

This Phillips Hue competitor is awesome and what I’d recommend to anyone. They have a range of products at a fraction of their competitor’s prices. The lights are capable of doing awesome things like setting programmable scenes (color schemes you create per room), lowering the lights on a set schedule, and adjusting to different light temperatures during different times of day. Don’t listen to reviews complaining about setting them up though. They’re super easy to install once you figure them out, but be sure to spend $20 more for a hub so it’s easier sailing.

IKEA | Okay, cue the eye-roll, but IKEA is legitimately great for some stuff you don’t expect. In my case, I bought an excellent faux-marble dinner table from them. It’s stark white, fits up to eight people, and is extremely sturdy and heavy. Best of all, it hits all the clean, modern notes I want in a kitchen table. It’s true that some of their stuff is funkily-named (remember the LACK from college, anyone?) particle board garbage geared towards the ‘first place of my own’ crowd. That said, however, some items like decorative pillows, rugs, and throws are terrific options at a great price.

Amazon | Not to end on too obvious a note, but Amazon is great for plate sets and cabinet doors at a great price. Stop by for a better deal than anywhere on those options.

I hope this gives you some apartment inspo while you wait and makes you feel better about your existing space if you’re a renter. I know it has for me! Once you’re ready, Fountain Mortgage is here for you though, so feel free to reach out and get pre-approved for a new home loan from one of our experts! We love helping new home buyers!