There’s no doubt that stepping into the exciting world of home ownership is a major milestone in life. Like most young adults, I have been a renter for most of my 20’s so when I finally turned the big 3-0, I made the decision to purchase my first home and become a new homeowner. From hiring a real estate agent to finding the ideal neighborhood, the home purchase process was a major accomplishment for me in itself.
However, I failed to do the adequate research on a first-time homeowners list of do’s and don’ts after moving day. Instead, I made the mistake of assuming that the move-in checklist for a new house is much like when moving into a new rental - big mistake.
If you’re in the market to purchase a new home, check out these 3 important lessons I learned as a new and uninformed homeowner.
1. Don't Skimp on Home Maintenance
Owning a new home requires you to retrain your past patterns of behavior in regards to home upkeep - I learned that the hard way. In the past, I was used to doing a brief inspection upon arrival at a new apartment and didn’t give maintenance a second thought until something actually broke down. In my defense, living in an apartment meant having a landlord or property management group who absorbed the cost of repairs, so regular inspections weren’t a top priority for me.
However, I soon realized that regular home inspections and maintenance were crucial when owning a home - the less time I spent on inspection and maintenance, the more I would spend on expensive repairs. Due to my lack of attention to regular maintenance such as roof inspection and repair, gutter cleaning, deck repair and cleaning, I got hit with numerous repair costs after the first year as a new homeowner - the worst part was that there was no landlord to help pay for it.
2. Not Preparing for Increases in Property Taxes & Homeowner's Insurance
You may be confused at this item but bear with me. While it is true that the principal and interest amount of your mortgage payment doesn’t change if you have a fixed-rate loan, increases in property taxes and homeowner’s insurance are very real possibilities. At closing, new homeowners are asked if they would like to budget their taxes and insurance into their monthly mortgage payment (I highly recommend this if you’re a new homeowner) or if they would like to pay on their own when it’s due. It’s important to remember that regardless of what you opt for, these amounts can significantly increase at any time.
I made the mistake of assuming that I didn’t need to budget for increases in taxes and insurance since they are included in my monthly payment. I realized my erroneous assumption when my insurance company remapped the flood zone near my home and my county reassessed the value of my home. Even though I wasn’t required to pay the increases in full immediately, it caused my mortgage payment to increase almost two hundred dollars - $200 that I hadn’t prepared for. Therefore, my plans to renovate and redecorate had to be put on the back burner until I assimilated to my increased mortgage expenses. It’s smart to wait about 1-2 years before launching into renovations as you never know when you’ll be blindsided by an increase in annual property taxes or homeowner’s insurance bill.
3. Going Overboard with Drilling, Hammering and Painting
I’m not talking about mismatched furniture or a brazen zebra print rug. You own your home and by all means, decorate however you wish. I’m referring to causing permanent damage to your home via drilling, hammering and painting.
After years of following the meticulous apartment decor rules from my property management company, I was ready to hammer, drill and wallpaper my new space to my heart’s content. However, I quickly learned that even decorating your own home comes with certain boundaries. While one of the benefits of being a new homeowner is having the freedom to drill holes for pictures and paint your walls, it’s also important to not let your newfound freedom go to your head.
For example, in the matter of drilling holes, under your walls are fragile installations such as pipes and wires that can cause major damage if struck by a nail or drill. Additionally, carelessly painting your walls without a well planned out color palette can mean unnecessary layers of paint on your brand new walls. Remember, owning your home does allow you freedom that renting does not but it also comes with an immense amount of responsibility.
I hope my lessons as a new homeowner does not deter you from purchasing a home. Despite the hiccups I experienced as a new homeowner, I still consider it one of the best decisions of my life. However, the mistakes I made as a new homeowner did cost me unnecessary amounts of time and money that could have been avoided. If home ownership is in your near future, these lessons will ensure that your journey is a hassle-free and prosperous one.