How to ease the pain of homeowner FOMO

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So, you'd like to own your own home, but don't exactly have down-payment cash kicking around? Join the club. But just because you haven't yet clambered onto the so-called "property ladder" you need not suffer from renter's remorse. 

Take it from someone who knows: London-based interior designer Eleanor Busing wrote for Apartment Therapy about her angst related to being unable to buy in one of the world's most expensive cities, and more importantly, how she manages to work around what she calls her "pre-mortgaged" state. (That's a euphemism we might hang onto for a rainy day.)

First, the less fun part: in order to not feel completely hopeless (and also, to keep your finances afloat like a responsible adult), Busing advises getting in the savings habit, and taking care to assess your own "sweet spot" for lifestyle versus savings. For instance, her apartment is a 45 minute commute to Central London, but it's comfortable and the rent allows her to save. In other words, the extra time spent on the train is worth the payoff, but living in a hovel in order to save even more probably wouldn't be.

And while we're talking finances, keep in mind that your down payment nest egg might not have to be as massive as you think: New York State has a program that offers first-time buyers 3-percent-down mortgages (as opposed to the standard 20 percent), and Freddie Mac recently launched a similar offer called Home Possible Advantage. 

As for options that don't require any number crunching, Busing suggests making your apartment your own in every way possible; "[focus on] why do you want to own a home, and how can you achieve that feeling, even just a little, in your current living situation?" For a lot of us, this means decorating to put our own stamp on a place. While you probably can't knock down your rental's walls to create your Dream Loft, you can make high-impact swaps for things like lighting an door handles, and experiment with options like removable wallpaper. While her flat comes furnished, Busing writes, "I hang art, I style bookshelves, I stock my kitchen with plates and breadboxes as carefully chosen as my sofa will be one day."

If your personal "why" is that you're just dying for the challenge of a DIY renovation, keep in mind that a lot of landlords will be happy if you volunteer to make certain upgrades around the house. It'll all be good practice for when you eventually start putting sweat equity into a property of your own.


How one NYC buyer got a 3-percent-down mortgage for his first house

8 easy upgrades to make a rental your own

Landlord-approved apartment upgrades

Owner no more: Brooklyn novelist Amy Sohn on the incredible lightness of renting

Renovate for free: this NYC "performance architect" shows you how