I bought my first home at 26 years old. There’s a lot of privilege involved with the opportunity to buy a home, especially at a fairly young age, and I feel VERY fortunate to be able to do that. HOWEVER, there are ten things that no one told me about homeownership that would have been wonderful to know before buying my first home.
- Landscaping and yard maintenance is HARD. Not all of my friends have this issue, but I have the HARDEST TIME keeping my grass and plants alive. I’ve successfully killed the mini front garden that came with my home and am currently figuring out how to DIY a new front garden. This project is going to cost upwards of $200… FOR PLANTS.
- Everything has a lifespan. Even smoke detectors have to be replaced every 10 years. A dishwasher can be expected to last 7 to 12 years. A fridge, ~14 years. Additionally, building codes change over time, so if you’re planning a renovation it’s a good idea to buffer your budget in case you run into some outdated systems which need to be brought up to code.
- Speaking of appliances, there are so many options and variations that it can be overwhelming to buy a new one when the time comes. Do you need a counter-depth fridge? Top/Bottom? Side by side? Ice maker built in? French Door? Drawer freezer? SO MANY OPTIONS TO CHOOSE FROM. Two tips for making the appliance buying process easier: Consumer Reports subscriptions are extremely inexpensive (like $10ish for a month), so it’s worth it to subscribe for a month so you can read reviews of appliances you’re considering (you can always cancel later). The Wire Cutter is also a great resource for finding direction for purchases. It’s free, so it’s especially helpful for things that are lower cost but still hard to know where to start in the buying process.
- You develop floor preferences and your house doesn’t have the right floor and it costs a lot to get it. Case in point: I never really cared about carpet vs hardwood or laminate or tile. But now that I own my house and can actually change the floor? I hate the carpet, and the tile, but I don’t want to spend $15,000 to upgrade to hardwood.
- Your mortgage payment changes! This isn’t the case for everyone, but my mortgage payment is several things: a payment towards the principal of my loan, a payment towards the interest, and an escrow payment (intended for things like local property taxes and homeowners insurance). Because my bank was not charging me enough money towards my escrow payment to cover the full bill, my payment is temporarily increased until I’ve “saved” enough money in the escrow for this year. If you’re in a housing market where property values fluctuate a lot, your property taxes (and by extension your escrow payment) will go up.
- Home decor and furniture is expensive. I paid $1500 for the couch in my home (and I love it), but that’s considered INEXPENSIVE for furniture. It blows my mind when I pin inspiration for different rooms in my home and find that I’d have to spend $2,000+ for bedroom decor and furniture. Did not expect that when I bought my house. (Don’t worry though – we’ll continue to post DIYs and other home decor projects that won’t break the bank).
- Most things are DIYable if you have the time, patience, and determination. Some things may require power tools (you can rent a lot of these at Home Depot if you don’t own them or know someone who will lend them to you). These can be scary when you first start out, but a lot of them are manageable, and DIYing things can help you save a ton of money. For example, a plumber may charge $300 to replace a faucet you can get for $30 at Home Depot and install yourself. There are some things (serious plumbing, electrical, and structural changes, to name a few) which are better left to skilled and, also important, licensed professionals. A lot of things, though, can be DIYed with the help of some good tools and YouTube tutorials.
- It’s a good idea to create a general home maintenance schedule (change out fire alarms/batteries, drain your water heater, change your air filter, etc). This can include cleaning (which should be done on a daily/weekly/monthly/quarterly basis) and general maintenance things (which usually happen monthly/quarterly/annually). Stay tuned for some home maintenance and cleaning schedule recommendations!
- Depending on the part of the country you’re in you may want to sign up for pest control. In a new build in Austin, I’ve come across scorpions, fire ants, silverfish, and wasps (in addition to the regulars, spiders). Pest control was something I knew about, but having grown up in CT, wasn’t something I expected to have to sign up for within a few months of buying my home.
- Refinancing may or may not be a good idea depending on the situation. I’m seeing a lot of people are talking about low interest rates and refinancing lately. And, to be honest, I’m still very confused and don’t fully understand at what point I should refinance. There’s so much information on the internet, but my best recommendation is to contact a mortgage professional to give you advice because I still haven’t figured it out.
This list isn’t comprehensive by any means, but it’s what’s top of mind when I think about the things I wish I knew about homeownership before buying my home. Leave us a comment about things you wish you knew (or other tips for homeownership) and subscribe to our newsletter for more homeowner tips!