Things You Only Realized After You Bought Your First Home
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The day comes and you pull up to your nice new house ready to make it your home. You walk through one more time to make sure it’s ready to go and the utopic madness of both excitement and confusion set in with all your stuff being moved in and where to put it.
As you walk through, you look at the house and what you want to change or improve, you imagine what colors in what rooms, and what lights just have to be changed. You discover the little things that will have to get fixed right away and the big things for later, and you discover that there is one thing that just won’t fit there, and you now must decide where will it go now.
You realize that buying a house and getting a mortgage will not move quickly, but you sort it out and get it done. Eventually it’s done; you’re all moved in, beyond a lot of unpacking to do, and can start to settle in and decide on colors, but there are a few things you are about to realize to get this home perfect that you probably won’t be prepared for.
1. Who was the past owner?
I have found myself asking this question many times: did they do this? This does not look right, why is this piece of trim moving, and how the heck did they fit this through here?!A very common question for new owners in an older home is “why?” Owning a home is expensive and time consuming, so a lot of simple repairs over the years will be done DIY style and on the pennies. Trust me, a day will come where you’ll say to yourself “good enough” and then you will find yourself “that guy” in the future.
2. Air filters: you must change them regularly & they are expensive
Air filters on your air-conditioning and heating units need to be changed every 4 to 6 weeks. You’ll find the past owners air filter still in and think “gross”, then you’ll get to your local hardware store and say the same thing at the price tag and think to yourself “that’s like $240 bucks a year per unit. Screw that, these 2 packs are 20 bucks, good enough!” But remember, yes, changing your air filter can be expensive, but by not keeping up on it I promise the bill will be much higher if it breaks. Try to get maintenance done every few years at a minimum and you should be able to keep everything humming for a lot longer.
3. The yard
You have driven around and seen those lush, perfect yards and said to yourself, “one day I’m going to have a yard like that but better”. Then later you look off your deck and find yourself asking, “was it this big when we bought it?” and you know this is going to be a lot more work than your last house. I mean, in a rental a few dead spots you don’t notice or care so much, you’re proud of how well you maintain it and how you always cut it often. But this is your home now, it’s not good enough and it must be the best.
Remember, it takes time, even years, to get your lawn perfect so don’t rush into it. It’s yours now and you have lots of time to turn it around, so do some research, figure out what you have and what you need and wait until next summer to get started. I personally winterized my yard the first year and threw down seed and fertilizer just before winter so when it melted it would come in with melt, and it did!
4. Your fireplace
When you walked through it you had found yourself daydreaming of a real fire with the stockings hung by the chimney with care and a little Mele Kalikimaka (Bing Crosby) playing through the house while hosting your first Christmas in your first home, and the amazing evenings you could have relaxing with some vino. Finally, the vino evening arrives and you find yourself panicking while flipping through the inspection wondering if they checked it, and do you have a fire extinguisher or should you get one, and how far is the hose in the worst case! Usually, for the most part, a fireplace is well built and durable, but it’s always a good idea to get it cleaned and maintained. But if you are going ahead without bringing in a pro, consider self-cleaning kits on Amazon and add it to your to-do-list beforehand; there are a lot of videos online of how to do it yourself.
I always suggest getting the burning cleaning logs as well; like the air filters above, it’s good to burn one ever once and awhile to be safe and keep your chimney clean if you use it often, no one wants to see your Christmas daydream include “chestnuts roasting on an uncontrolled fire and your stockings burning up without care”!
5. Maintenance sucks!
Gutters fill up quick, weather stripping well, strips away, silicone wears… why does this list only get bigger no matter how much I knock off, and where did that scratch in the floor come from?!
Owning a home is work, and like everything else in life it doesn’t happen overnight and it rarely lets up. We are all home owners bouncing through the day hoping we can get one day to do nothing in fat pants with endless nachos. Like Franky said “relax”, no one gets it all done, just ask your neighbors. It can be a royal pain in the tuchus sometimes, but remember this is your investment and every gutter cleaned and every window painted or resealed saves you money and improves your home.
6. Get to know your hardware store!
You are going to be there more than you know. You probably had the misconception that owning a house was all about walking around naked, maybe answering the door in your underwear, always having a beer in hand and relaxing while your equity grows without a care in the world. (Or maybe that was just my idea of it all!) I’m sorry to be the one to tell you, but that’s not at all it. When you feel like you’re slowly descending into madness from not being able to find or describe the dumbest little fricking part for something you need to fix, and you get that look on your face, you know the look: stress mixed with confusion and impatience, these guys and gals are going to save you (and your home). They are not just sales associates, they are more than that, they are gods among us feeble humans, like angels from heaven they will guide you to your path to the right aisle and to the right part. A lot of the people you see at home depot are retired contractors or contractors that moonlight as gods to help keep a steady income, and they, for the most part, know a lot or know who does. Remember their names and become the best of friends, as this place will become your second home and will save you!
7. Your budget
Let’s start with a HAHA… every seasoned homeowner knows why. You probably started off with a perfectly acceptable budget in mind, and then found yourself wide-eyed looking at your credit card wondering how did everything got so out of control so quickly, and you failed as home owners and now everything is cancelled for the foreseeable future. Try to take a deep breath. It’s never what you thought and every homeowner wonders at moments if they have bitten off more than they can chew, and why did we buy that?! Make a plan, figure out what’s left and what’s next, keep calm and remember you have come this far; focus on the little things and getting yourself out of hot water. Maybe put the new blinds you want on hold and that living room set on layaway for a while. Everything will be okay!
8. Ikea: friend or foe?
We all had that idea of saving our budget with a new bedroom set that would save a ton of cash, or the cheap and easy bookshelves and all the affordable odds and ends.
Understand this: they don’t like you, in fact they hate you! (Or at least that’s how I feel.) You are on your own while feeling like a cave man trying to make a fire for the first time. You’re wedged in some ridiculous contorted way that even a contortionist would be impressed with, while looking at the “instructions” trying to figure out what dumb new way does this piece connect to this piece, while the only tool you have is your scraped up hand and an Allen key made for what we can only assume is one of Santa’s elves, while you try to call the help line but instead of finding help you find yourself getting that hardware-store-look again and your rage builds as they describe the same page you’re looking at…
But after all the frustration and anger, you will find yourself with the perfect functional storage bed that was everything you wanted and needed… but I promise you every day you will look at it and you will feel the frustration again knowing it almost took a piece of your soul. But your credit card will thank you and it will have all been worth it!
9. Missing renting
You miss it only because the heart remembers the good times and carefree life style you once had where weekends were for fun and not frustration, where your wallet loved you and you loved it back.
You remember the good old days of “the paint is fine” and where you didn’t have to understand the different swatches and subtle tone differences, and where the hardware store was a strange place your barely ventured to and you were okay with that.
But eventually that will fade and you’ll forget it as things go. You’ll make it through your first year and the pain will fade away and you’ll wake up in that nightmare of a bed and find yourself appreciating it. You’ll look around your beautiful home and find yourself amazed with new stories and memories you can love and laugh at, and on that day, you’ll finally ask yourself, “why did I rent for so long when I could have had this?” When that day comes, you’ll know you made it, it was all worth it and you realize that you never want to go back to renting again.
By Christopher Lowe