It’s been almost 20 years since my wife and I bought our first home. I still remember driving in our minivan to the closing appointment with a screaming infant who was missing a feeding because there was no time to feed him or we would be late.
In the first months and years of owning our home, there were a lot of things we found out the hard way. Part of this stems from the fact that we were married fairly young in life (I was 22 and she was 21). So when we moved into our first home, there was a lot we didn’t know.
Hopefully, you can learn from our mistakes.
You’re going to spend a lot of money
When you’re in the process of buying a home, you’re so focused on making sure you have the necessary money for your down payment and closing costs that you might lose sight of the fact that there is a lot more money that you’re going to be spending as part of homeownership.
That’s why you need to be saving up money for more than just your down payment and not buying a house at the very top of your price range.
If you come out of closing with the keys to your new home and nothing else in your bank account, you’re going to be in for a rough couple of months as you transition into homeownership and deal with transitional costs that you didn’t have as an apartment dweller.
Things like property taxes, HOA fees, a lawnmower and other landscaping materials, and fixing things that break all start to add up, and that’s even assuming that you’re handy enough to take care of them without hiring a professional!
You should change your furnace air filters (regularly!)
The next few lessons we learned involved some of the regular maintenance that comes with owning a home.
In case you didn’t know this already, you should change the air filter in your furnace around every three months. Depending on what kind of furnace filter you get, it can cost anywhere from a couple of dollars to $20-$50 or more.
Because keeping a clean furnace filter directly affects how effective your furnace is, regularly replacing your furnace filters can save you money on your energy bill.
You need to clean out your gutters
Another regular home improvement task that nobody told me about was cleaning out your gutters.
I was a few years into owning my home when I had a contractor come over to look at a different project. As we were talking about the specifics of the project, he asked me, “When’s the last time you cleaned out your gutters?” I’m sure he was quite amused by the blank look on my face.
Since then, I’ve scheduled a regular cleaning of my gutters into my yearly routine. You’ll want to clean out your gutters in the fall and, depending on how many trees you have in your yard, in the spring as well.
The good news is that cleaning out your gutters is a relatively easy home improvement project to tackle, even if you’re not particularly handy. The bad news is that you’re going to need to buy a tall ladder (see what I mean about extra costs you never thought about before you bought a home?).
Mowing the lawn is … kind of fun? (for a while)
If you’re like me, you spent many a night and weekend as a teenager being forced to mow the lawn of the home you lived in with your parents. I certainly did not have fond memories of mowing the lawn as a kid.
But the very first time I mowed my own lawn as a homeowner, I remember feeling a sense of pride.
That lasted about two mows before it was back to feeling like a task to be dreaded.
Thankfully, as the father of three boys, I haven’t had to mow the lawn in almost 10 years. I’ve got about five more years left of exploiting my kids’ free labor before I have to tackle mowing the lawn. Maybe that’s enough time for it to become fun again?
It’s hard to keep up the energy to tackle home projects
The last thing nobody told me about owning a home is that it is incredibly difficult to keep up the energy to tackle all of the projects that you want or need to do.
Before you buy your home, you make a list a mile long of all the things you want to do to improve your home. But then you move in and your limited free time on nights and weekends starts slowly being taken over by just living your life.
And the work is never done. My best advice to you is to keep a list of things you want to do, prioritize the most important things, and tackle small bits of projects on a regular basis. You’ll find yourself turning your house into your dream home in no time.
Are you looking to buy a house? Before you start going on showings, contact the loan officers at Wintrust Mortgage to discuss your options.