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How to rent like a pro while saving for your first home

Anya GairAnya Gair
Last Updated 13 June 2024

Maybe you’re dreaming of one day buying your first place and making it your own. But until then, you’re likely to be renting. And while you rent, you might want to 1) put as much as you can towards your first home and 2) actually enjoy where you live.

Keep reading to read our guide on how to rent like a pro, while also saving for your first home. We’re going to walk you through the dos and don’ts of renting a house, plus tips and tricks.

How to rent checklist:

1. Know what you can and can’t do with your rented space

Some landlords are happy for you to make your rented house feel a little bit more like home with some personal touches. Others will take any change out of your deposit. This is why you need to be careful when making any changes to a rented place - even the renter-friendly ones. Before you do anything, speak to your landlord or agency about what they’re comfortable with, and get it preferably in writing. 

Can you paint the walls? Can you change the carpets? Are they okay with you getting a pet? Ideally, you’d have this conversation before you rent a place, but it’s worthwhile, even when you’ve been living there for a bit.


Top tip

Prep all the questions beforehand, so you can ask everything in one go. Hopefully you’ll catch them when the sun’s shining and they’re having a good hair day.

2. Keep a record of everything

Y’know what really helps with those moving costs? Getting your full deposit back. And with some careful planning, you can up your chances.

Before you move all of your things into your new place, take a record of everything. Do a full sweep of the house, taking high-res photos of every chip in the wall or crack in the furniture from day one and send them to your landlord. When it comes to moving out, you’ll have proof of any damage that existed before you lived there. Make sure you send the evidence to your landlord or agency within 7 days of moving in so that you have time-stamped proof that the damage was already there.

It’s also a good idea to get a photo of your water and electric meters before you’ve used anything too - so you can evidence exactly how much you’ve used since being there.


Top tip

Try to have any conversations with your landlord or agency over email. Even if you speak in person or over the phone, follow up with an email or text so you have a written record of any agreements.

3. Know your rights (and responsibilities) as a tenant

There are laws in place that help to protect both you and the person who owns the property you live in. As a tenant, it’s important that you know these, so you can challenge things like unfair evictions and high charges. But also, so you can understand your responsibilities as a tenant (like whether you’re allowed to sublet a room). You can find all this information on the government website.

4. Use your track record of paying rent to your advantage

A good credit score can help you get a mortgage and give you access to some of the best mortgage deals. Through the Rental Exchange Scheme, you can boost your credit score just by paying your rent on time. If you haven’t already, ask your landlord or letting agent to add your rental payment data to the Rental Exchange.



Missing your rent can lower your credit score and make things more challenging when you apply for a mortgage. Always speak to your landlord if you’ve got some money troubles.

Check your credit score with CheckMyFile

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3. Use renting as a test run

Unless you’ve lived in an area, it can be hard to know if you’re like it once you’ve bought a property there. If you’re thinking of buying somewhere in the future, you can use renting as a way to see if you’d like it. 

You’ll get to know the neighbourhood and really understand what life would be like if you buy a place there.

If you can afford it, you could also try to rent a similar-sized place to what you’d like to buy. This can help you work out if you need more space, or if there are things you can cross off your house-hunting checklist.

You might also like: House viewing checklist

4. Reduce the expenses you can control

While renting is expensive, there are ways to control your monthly costs. By switching gas, electricity and broadband providers, you could cut down your bills each year. The more you can save on this stuff, the more you can put towards your first home and the sooner you’ll be paying your own mortgage (instead of someone else’s).
Learn more: How to set and reach your savings goals

5. Be a good neighbour

Simple stuff, like saying hello in the hallway, or letting your neighbours know that you’re having a party can help you build a good relationship with the people next door. 

If there are ever any problems, they’ll be more likely to politely knock the door, instead of complaining to your landlord (and you can do the same when it’s their turn).

6. Try some rental-friendly home decor

You might not be planning on living there forever, but that doesn’t mean you have to exist in a magnolia box for the next few years.

Even if your landlord is pretty strict, there are some great rental-friendly decor ideas you can try.

  • Use textiles like curtains, cushions, throws and rugs to add colour and texture.
  • Try Command Strips for hole-free picture hanging.
  • If you’re allowed to paint (even if you have to paint over it before you leave) you could try the super-easy painted arch trend.
  • Use peelable vinyls on your walls, floors and cabinets.
  • Replace your light shades.

Want to go from renting to buying?

Whether you’re ready to start house-hunting, or just started saving towards your first home, Tembo can help. Our Lifetime ISA can help you save up a house deposit for your first home sooner. Ready to buy? Our award-winning mortgage services can help you discover ways to boost your affordability, so you can get on the ladder sooner or increase your buying power.

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