Owning or renting a home, a holiday home, or hotel?

By Editor-in-Chief

The newspapers have been writing about how “the new young” want to travel and stay in hotels or rented apartments rather than owning a Finnish holiday home or forest. It is as if the world is radically changing, with us oldies happily living in a now irrelevant bubble…

These articles claim that these young people do not want to be bogged down with “forced labor camps” like their parents. Who wants to go to the same place each summer; who wants to live in primitive conditions with mosquitoes; who wants to cut firewood; and paint the walls every 5th year; who wants to argue with other siblings about who inherits what building and when they can have their holiday?

As I enter my 70th year this year, perhaps I can have my say on this matter because of direct experience with the following:

  1. I have lived and worked in 6 countries – UK Finland, Sweden, France, Singapore and USA, where most of the time I have lived in rented accommodation, except in Finland, Sweden and the UK.
  2. I have worked on projects in Russia, Ukraine, China, India, Serbia, Romania, Rwanda, Moldova, Georgia, China, Norway, Sweden, Ghana, Turkey and Croatia and lived in hotels there.
  3. I have owned holiday homes near Joensuu and Savonlinna, and now have an apartment in Helsinki and a beautiful log holiday home on a forested island near Tammisaari.
  4. I have built one brick house and repaired and maintained several log houses…
  5. I have travelled on vacation to every part of the globe, except the North and South Poles!

I will deal first with hotels – I have stayed in hundreds of hotels in so many countries. They used to be fun and interesting with high standards. But today, growth and consolidation in the hotel industry and cheap flights, now mean that hotel rooms all look the same and are cleaned by over-worked, careless cheap foreign labor. There are exceptions in Austria, Germany and Singapore but even these people are under pressure by Booking.com and their cousins. They hike prices we pay and increase the costs for hotels. Finding a small well-run hotel or B&B is getting so hard that a whole day can pass in front of the laptop…

Booking.com charges between 15% to 30% from their clients, which means cutting corners with cleaning and services. Naturally you can buy a really nice hotel room for a cheap cost of €500 a night, but that is for the “1% very wealthy” who have no idea about value for money… you just pay for extra space and unhealthy food, and snobbish staff.

Airbnb is the end of the world – it is dominated by amateurs whose idea of cleaning and what furniture you need is minimalist in the bad sense. If I have had one good experience with Airbnb, then there are five bad ones… and if you write a negative review about a lousy apartment you are soon blacklisted by the owners.

And this idea that your own holiday house is a forced labor camp… It is just another form of great exercise. Painting is a time for deep thinking; cutting down trees is a release for bad and violent thoughts; raking leaves and cutting grass are celebrations of the seasons; and big bonfires are a time for happiness, black hands and smoke-filled nostrils – delicious, except if you are my wife! Just think about this last ideal hot summer, and think about this exciting stormy and wind driven autumn…

And none of these can be enjoyed as much in a rented holiday home where breaking a single glass can cause a family quarrel…

Buying a house and a holiday home is an important life changing experience, and a great way to invest for your present and future life and to keep fit. It also teaches you new skills for your life and work. You start to think about alternative lifestyles – not everybody wants to remain an engineer or banker. Even I have changed hats several times.

Renting apartments and hotels are fine for short periods and nothing more. Renting a place to live for long periods or your whole life is an alternative, but not advisable because you miss out on these interesting life-changing experiences. The element of saving for the future is also missing, and that is important no matter what other “advisors” say… and many of these advisors are making a great deal of money from renting.

Article was first published in “Forum för ekonomi och teknik” in Swedish – September 2018

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