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Middle-classes ditching traditional rental properties to become guardians for mansions and stately homes
The Telegraph reports: SOARING house prices are no longer a barrier to having a dream home as middle-class people with shrinking budgets are finding a new way to keep up with the Jones's.
Thousands of professionals in their forties, fifties and sixties are solving the growing mismatch between their financial budgets - and keeping up appearances - by signing up to so-called "property guardian" schemes.
Such schemes provide opportunities to reside in impressive properties including stately homes, manor houses with grounds and churches for less than the price of renting a room in a flat share.
According to Camelot, one of the UK’s biggest guardian agencies, interest from older communities is gathering at such pace that nearly half (42pc) of its guardians are now aged 35 to 65.
Despite guardianship - which is viewed by some as a form of organised squatting - usually being associated with "Generation Rent" struggling to get on the property ladder, just 11pc of Camelot's guardians are aged between 18 and 25.
Conversely agencies are starting to accept property guardians in their seventies, saying a growing number of older people are opting to live in a community - rather than in a retirement property where they may become lonely.
Other reasons for older people choosing guardianship instead of owning or renting a home are divorce, which can lead to financial hardship, as well as reducing housing costs to help fund up a business.
One such guardian is 59-year-old former BBC employee, Jacqueline McIntyre Campbell, who now owns a vegan bistro.
Last year she paid £250 a month to live in a 12-bedroom Victorian stately home while she was in the process of setting up her venture.
She said: "The cheap rent suited me while I was setting up my restaurant and the fact that bills were included meant I didn't have to worry about nasty surprises each month.
"I loved the deep windows which could sit in and look up the main street onto the park and the railway line.
The gardens were also phenomenal – there were bushes with pink magnolias the size of my hand."
Another older property guardian, Sophie Helas-Kwo, has been residing in Oswald Manor House, a 10 bedroom mansion built in the 1800's, for two years after a firm called Ad Hoc Property management placed her there.
Alongside her day job in construction Sophie is a photographer and enjoys taking snaps of the abundant wildlife in her back garden including badgers, squirrels and pheasants as well as flowers like foxgloves, daffodils and snowdrops.
Her "unit", which includes a kitchenette and living area, costs just £300 a month. She said: "Sometimes when I'm coming up the long drive I have to pinch myself as it's hard to believe I actually live here in a place as amazing as this."
Also living in the manor are a doctor, who is head of radiology at a nearby hospital, and a 71-year-old retired teacher.
The residents cook for each other sometimes and act as a community, helping each other out where needed.
Typically rooms cost £200 to £350 a month including bills, less than half of the average UK rent which stood at £746 a month in April.
Property guardians stay in empty properties for months or years, while the building awaits planning permission or waits to be converted into something else.
Tenants can expect to share with as many as 20 other residents and are asked to leave at short notice once a project is ready to commence.
Andy Stanton, marketing manager at Global Guardians, a property guardian firm, said: “People often have a perception of guardianship as professional squatting, but that’s very different from the reality.
It’s now very normal for professionals including barristers, people who work in government, and even retirees taking part in schemes.”
A spokesman from Live In Guardians, another agency, said: “Living in a church or another unusual building is definitely a talking point for people. It’s a cool thing to do and there’s a definitely a certain lifestyle associated with it.”