Mortgage? No, Thanks. No Interest for Life

The mortgage precipice. Everyone seems to be on it and, bizarrely, wants to be on it, despite the threat of the Bank of England making another ‘announcement.’

But here’s the reality: having a mortgage does not make you a home ‘owner’; you are, essentially, renting from the bank or building society with whom you have taken it out, and they, just like any landlord, if you fail to make those monthly payments, will turf you out on your ear.

I know. It happened to me. It was the bank who held my mortgage that drove me to a near breakdown, and after saying goodbye to my mortgage and becoming a full-time renter six years ago, I have never been happier, or more stress free.

I had my first mortgage at the age of 32 – a one-bedroom flat in London’s Belsize Park in the prestigious NW3 postcode. My parents had brought me up with the adage that “You can never go wrong with bricks and mortar”, and I had duly obliged. Having seen them climb the property ladder after buying a house in Bridgend for £5,000 and selling it for a whacking £12,000 in 1977, they seemed to know what they were talking about.

I spent years climbing that same ladder, choosing ever more expensive properties, although realising that with interest only mortgages (which was all I could afford), I was getting nowhere. At the end of the period of the mortgage, if I hadn’t paid off the outstanding amount, the place belonged to the bank.

In 2008, everything came crashing down, as it did for so many. I lost a lucrative job and, with two hefty mortgages in Cardiff and Spain, where I had purchased an apartment in Puerto Banus, overlooking the Mediterranean, there was more money going out than coming in.I got rid of both, decided to be mortgage free, and become a renter. It was the best decision I ever made.

I have been lucky in having landlords who promptly dealt with any maintenance problems, so I have never had to worry about the cost of upkeep. I can move at a moment’s notice, without having the stress of selling up and, over the years, I’ve been lucky enough to have been a renter not only in the USA (Los Angeles and New York) and Spain (Valencia), but Paris, London, Bath and Cardiff.

I love the freedom that renting gives. And if people judge me for not being a homeowner in my seventh decade? I don’t give a flying fig. Not my circus, not my monkeys.

The concept of home ownership as a status symbol runs through the veins of British society, though. In Paris, no one I know owns a property – it’s seen as an act of foolhardiness rather than achievement.


And as a renter, I can invariably live in a far better place than I could ever afford to buy. In New York, I could not, even in my wildest dreams, have been able to afford to buy a penthouse (albeit a small one) with stunning sunset views of the Hudson River. And as I work from home, in the UK a large part of my rent is tax deductible, a mortgage is not (mortgage holders get tax relief in the USA).

I have certainly moved more than the average person and, when my father died in 1990, I first rented and then bought a house in Bath to be closer to Mum. When she started to go downhill in 2017 before she died in 2019, I rented back in Bath so that I could do more for her. If I had had a mortgage, I would never have been able to do the latter.

During lockdown, I studied for my property qualification in New York and I am now a Real Estate Licensed Salesperson in that state, affiliated to Nest Seekers International. I am also affiliated to them in London. It is ironic that in my new role, my job is to sell property, an area of life with which I have long been obsessed. Ownership is just no longer for me.

As a friend once said – and I took heed: “Not every holiday has to end in a lease.”